exactly that

Posts tagged ‘race’

Pop-Culture and Passing

“Passing” has always been a touchy subject for me. As a mixed-race person I have always felt as though I lived in a rather “damned if I do” place with regards to how I identify. My life experiences and upbringing were very much centered on my Native American heritage. My appearance, however, always made the acceptance of that by both myself and other people very difficult. It’s not easy to present as differently than you identify because there will always be plenty of people to tell you how you should identify. I am constantly reminded that because I present as white to their eye then I should accept that I am in fact a white person. There are two problems with this: I am not a white person, and it is not the decision of anyone outside of myself to decide how I get to identify. There is no proper way to present as a person of color/non-white person, and for anyone else to press a definition of what is or is not properly “of color” is unacceptable.

I don’t recall a ton of pop culture that deals specifically with the politics of being mixed race or presenting differently than you identify. It is one of the reasons that when I picked up and played Dragon Age II that I was so startled and taken with some of the missions surrounding the character Feynriel.

A screencap of a very pale young man with fair hair, light eyes, and very thin features, including a slender nose, and shallow-set eyes. He is meant to look half-human and half-elf, and should appear all human.Feynriel is a half-human/half-elf young man that you meet when his mother is distressed because he has come into magic in a way that has caused him to possibly become a danger to himself. A funny thing about Dragon Age is that the writers, most notably I imagine being David Gaider who wrote the novels where I noticed this lore most heavily played upon, have given us a situation where a person born of mixed-race origins will always present one way. In this case, a child born of one human and one elf parent will always present as human, and in a world lacking DNA science, there is no way to tell otherwise. Dragon Age provides us through the course of two novels and three games with two fairly prominent characters who depict this background. One I will not spoil for you if you are not aware of it or do not consider it canon (though to me it is completely obvious that this is in fact exactly his lineage and quite intentional). The other is Feynriel. They do, however present very differently.

Both are men, and one is the very picture of a stereotypically “ideal” looking man, while Feynriel looks far more elven. He has the narrower features, flatter forehead and more shallow set eyes of the elves in DAII. He is more fair and thin. I even found his ears to be slightly pointed. I found it interesting that both characters seemed to prove my basic idea that no mixed race person will every look exactly a certain way.

I wish that BioWare had taken a slightly less Caucasian approach to presenting a face of a mixed-race person, but in my mind the variation in features provides a little bit with me to work with that I might almost be willing to let that pass. Almost.

Feynriel’s second largest problem is that he doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. When he lives among humans he feels as though he stands out as obviously an elf (a point I found odd given that half-human/half-elf children should always look human, until I thought about it more). Considering that elves experience extreme levels of racial hatred and discrimination this is understandably an uncomfortable place for him to have lived his entire life. His first largest problem being that he is also a mage, subjecting him to hatred and fear above that status. Feynriel wants to live among the Dalish Elves, a nomadic clan of elves, and when (if) he is there, despite finding some help with his magical woes, he feels, again, that he stands out due to his human parentage.

Wow. Can I relate.

Feynriel made me feel a little like I could relate to that situation. Not quite ever belonging in one place or to any one people because no matter where you were someone was going to see you as the other. Additionally, his situation made me re-examine the thoughts that pounded instantly into my head when I watched his woes unfold before me. My initial reaction of “Hey! He looks awfully elf!” really hit home when I realized that that assumption is the very thing that I get upset with people for. I loathe people for telling me that I look very white, dismissing my Native background, and I had just done the same thing, albeit to a pixelated character, but done it all the same.

Chally at Zero at the Bone has written many great things about this topic, and I recommend this part three of a series she has written: The Privileges and Pains of Passing.


Love, Anonymously — Racialicious’ First Ever Blog Carnival

Two red ladybugs on green, one mounted up on the other caught in the act. You naughty ladybugs!Back in August I received an email from Latoya Peterson of Racialicious about some thoughts on a piece at Jezebel called A Practical Guide to Popping Your Cherry, along with a host of other people. After reading it, she tossed some ideas around, we all tossed some ideas back, and this mammoth discussion about sex, race, religion, and many, many other facets evolved.

It rolled out like play dough in a fun factory, and Latoya stressed her wishes to broaden the conversation to the many ways in which race plays a huge factor in the way we as non-white people approach sexuality. It was an amazing discussion, but, since I wasn’t really taught to embrace much of my non-white self until later in my sexual experience, or life in general, I found myself lost in that part of the discussion. That was OK by me, because I ended up taking much away from it anyhow. Being in a mixed race/ethnicity marriage/partnership now has caused me to have to look at my relationship from many angles, but they were not things that I had to deal with when I was approaching sex for the first time. Or when I thought I was approaching sex for the first time.

The ideas being tossed around became so varied and so many that it seems that Latoya had this great idea to turn this into a Blog Carnival. The first one that Racialicious has ever done.

So here’s the first official call.  Entries are due November 30th, 2010, and we will start running the pieces in November and December.  Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid is co-editing, and we are hoping for a huge mix of participants.

What are we looking for?

Anything really. But for those of you who need a prompt, here are some things like I would like to see:

  • General commentary on sex and dating
  • First times
  • Discussions of abstinence and virginity
  • The construction of masculinity and how that impacts dating, love, and sex
  • Racial stereotypes/perceptions and their impact on your sex life
  • Being part of a “sexless” class and how that impacts dating, love, and sex

Guidelines are the same as general Racialicious ones.

Submissions can be in any format – would love to see poems, erotica, comics, illustrations, video, and audio, as well as straight text. Please include a transcript with video/audio.  Anonymity can be arranged – the best way I can see it to upload your file to a drop.io, send it to team@racialicious.com and just use a fake email address. But we can figure that out as we go.


I hope that some of you out there will consider submitting to this. I will be doing a featured piece that will focus on the intersection of disability, but I would like to see more non-white/PoC voices from the disability community be involved if they are willing. I am really excited about this opportunity, and can’t hardly wait to see what comes of it.

Photo Credit:  cygnus921

One thing I am failing to grok…

is that every damn time the conversation on larger feminist sites turns to the topic of race it almost immediately becomes Black and White.

Every. Damn. Time.

Suddenly, there are Black Women and White Women, and no one in between.

No one else in the chromatic spectrum exists, even if the conversation started out discussing those bodies of ours that don’t fit neatly into those boxes.

It isn’t a black and white issue dealing with only Black and White bodies…

So I ask…

Where do our bodies, where does my body fit in?

Where is it that my voice matters in this conversation?

The fine line…

So I was reading Whatsername’s review of Star Trek (it’s good, go read it), and we started discussing how some people (she is hardly the first person I have heard mention this) are reacting to John Cho playing Sulu, since he’s Korean Sulu is supposed to be Japanese, b/c George Takei is Japanese.  I (and The Guy) genuinely liked Cho as Sulu.  It wasn’t a huge part for this intro movie, but I think he did really well w/ it.  I am not the world’s foremost Trekkie, by any stretch of the word, so my opinion won’t count for the hard core fans out there.  But I have read in the past that Sulu was not supposed to be any specific nationality (“Sulu” not being a Japanese name at all and in fact named after the Sulu Sea).  Kind of “Generic Asian guy”, which is problematic in and of itself since apparently he is to be representative of all Asians everywhere (kind of like the monolith that people assume is Africa, Asia is a pretty big place and diverse even w/in borders of specific countries).  Nationality is glossed over WRT Asian actors all the time (Ando on Heroes is Japanese, but the actor who plays him is in fact Korean).  But Gene Roddenberry wanted to depict a future where there was harmony across Asia, long torn apart by war and disputes.  It was in fact Takei who pointed this out to the casting directors of the latest Star Trek, to reassure them that Sulu was not meant to be Japanese specifically (and if you research Sulu like a good nerd, one of his parents were supposedly Phillipin@).

To me, so what if John Cho is Korean and George Takei is Japanese?  Cho is a fine actor, George Takei, the iconic character was on board w/ it, and I wonder how much difference it makes what his ethnic background is specifically, and Sulu isn’t supposed to be any one nationality specifically.  So that brings me to what I believe is a fine line.  The fine line b/t the way, in American Cinema we seem to have the Interchangeable Asian and getting too concerned over specific nationality.  There is a fine line where it isn’t stereotyping and it isn’t broad sweeping.  We are dealing w/ iconic characters here, and I wonder how important race and gender are to keeping the spirit of the film.  Hollywood has this tendency to resort to the same names again and again when they want to cast an Asian actor (and seldom a woman other than Lucy Lu or Zhang Ziyi).  How many movies set in China or Chinatown star Jet Li or Jackie Chan?  

It is kind of like the way that I feel there is a huge oversight on the part of the casting of the Avatar movie, where they have erased race altogether, but then decided that the Fire Nation should be populated w/ brown people who are hell bent on oppression and control.  The source material was set in an alternate Asia, w/ subtle differences in culture blending from Inuit people to South Asians and everything in between. Arguably the Fire Nation is representative of Imperial Japan, the Earth Kingdom is probably drawn from both China and Korea since it has a vast range of looks and cultures (Ba Sing Se is very much like Bei Jing), but overall they all blend together a little at the edges and it is very distinctly Asian.  When they decided to make Aang a white kid, and Katara and Sokka white, it mattered. Perhaps Aang is supposed to be white, and not actually Tibetan influenced, as some believe, but I am as yet unconvinced.  The erasure of race mattered for this film, at least to me.  The difference, to me, is that the source material is set specifically in an alternate Asia.  It seems almost as if Asians have been erased from their own world altogether.

But why does that matter, and the the specificity of Sulu’s nationality not matter?  Should it matter?  Was Roddenberry really more ahead of his time than we are now?

Daniel Henney was cast as Agent Zero in the Wolverine film, and Agent Zero, as I understand it, is supposed to be German.  Should that have mattered?

How big of a difference does the race of a person make in a particular film?  What about gender?  What if Sulu had been played by a woman, like Brenda Song?  Would people have embraced her as Sulu, despite being Hmong and Thai and a woman?  What if Scottie or Chekov had been cast as women?  Did they have to be Scottish and Russian?  What if Kirk had been a woman (somewhere some Trekkie’s head just exploded)?

Does it matter more when dealing w/ iconic characters?  Are race and gender specificity so important?  Does the way a person looks in a role matter more or less than how well zie portray that role?

Where do we draw that line?  I am certainly not the person to make the call, not being Asian, but I do know that having Inuit people in Avatar cast as white is alienating as a Native woman.  I know that I am sensitive to the way that Native Americans are depicted in the Twilight universe.


The Bait and Switch…

I mentioned recently that I recently started watching CSI again, after years of not watching.  It’s on, and is some of the only Western programming I have access to on a regular schedule…hey, my brain gets tired of trying to do Korean all the time, and I need a break occasionally.  I mentioned that the way they killed Warick brown off of the show left a foul taste in my mouth.  I was deeply disappointed in their decision to have the only PoC character in such a brutal manner (admittedly, I don’t know the actor’s reason for leaving the show).  He’s gone, and it was more than a bit jarring.

Then, just a few episodes later, a stewing and tired Gil Grissom leaves the show, setting up two important things b/f he exits gracefully (I think it is important to note the differences in Warick’s and Gil’s leaving).  He a)  announces the addition of a new character, and b) names Catherine is successor, and rightfully so. (more…)

A Quote for Today

We have finally become part of the fabric of the United States of America.

~Whoopi Goldberg on how it feels to be black in America on this day.

Tag Cloud