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an endless succession of beans and nuts.

Taking a ridiculous racial issue and making it more ridiculous.

For some reason — ratings? — Megyn Kelly was on Fox News arguing with some lady who thought Santa Claus should no longer be depicted as a white man. Sorry, I'm not going to figure out the whole context of that proposal, but at some point Kelly emitted the following quote:
"Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," Kelly said. "Jesus was a white man, too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?"
Well, that's silly, perhaps, but she's got a guest on the show who needs to be prodded with questions. And the assertion that Santa is a historical figure is jocose for adults, a sop for the kids. The question is simply the usual conservative appeal to tradition: Why change anything? There's a reference to the reason for the change: It makes some people "uncomfortable." Is that a good enough reason for changing something we've done for a long time? This is the same way you could bandy about the question whether the Washington Redskins ought to change their name. It's standard fare for the Fox News crowd.

So here comes Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic, turning that nugget o' Fox into something that Atlantic readers might find tasty. Hey, everybody, some idiot on Fox News said something stupid.
Setting aside the ridiculousness of creating rigidly racial depictions of a fictitious character that does not actually exist—sorry, kids—like Santa, Kelly has made a more serious error about Jesus. The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.
Kelly didn't demand "rigidly racial depictions." She was challenging her guest's attempt to turn the usual image of Santa into a racial problem. It's the guest who's yearning to impose the racial template. What's the "serious error" about Santa that Kelly is supposed to have made? None! But she made a "more serious error about Jesus," and I guess any error is a more serious error than no error.

What's the error? Merritt informs us that Jesus, being a first-century Jew, probably had dark skin. Jews are not white? One ceases to be white if one's skin is sufficiently dark? It may be silly to use the term "white" to label people by race, but white is a big category, and it includes a pretty broad spectrum of skin colors, such as, for example, the "white Hispanic" George Zimmerman. Maybe we should call Jesus a "white Semitic" to heighten the awareness of the subcategories of whiteness. Is that what Jonathan Merritt requires to avoid falling into "serious error"? Megyn Kelly was arguing for less racialism, and Merritt is arguing for more.

Merritt also casually implies that the TSA engages in racial profiling of those who look Semitic. It's a scurrilous charge, but, hey, it's a joke.

Merritt continues:
The myth of a white Jesus is one with deep roots throughout Christian history. As early as the Middle Ages and particularly during the Renaissance, popular Western artists depicted Jesus as a white man, often with blue eyes and blondish hair. 
Yeah, but Megyn Kelly didn't say Jesus had blond hair and blue eyes. Merritt's line is more erroneous, wafting the notion that white people must have light coloring. I'd say there are a lot more white people with dark eyes and dark hair than with blue eyes and blond (or "blondish") hair. So this is a completely screwy attack on Megyn Kelly, and it's actually pretty offensive to go out of your way to say that persons of Semitic ancestry are not white. Why go where Nazis have gone? What's the attraction? Because it's just so important to portray Fox News folk as idiots?
Perhaps fueled by some Biblical verses correlating lightness with purity and righteousness and darkness with sin and evil, these images sought to craft a sterile Son of God....
Now, you are way outside of anything having to do with Megyn Kelly. This sounds like some lesson from a fourth-rate racial studies course. And by the way, Merritt, that writing is terrible. The subject of your sentence is "images," and images don't seek to do anything. Images are inanimate objects. And how do you "craft" Jesus? Human beings do the seeking and crafting. And the images are crafted. The images are of Jesus. A person might craft a sterile image of Jesus. But an image can't craft — or even seek to craft — a sterile Jesus.

And we're subjected to the usual tripe about light and darkness — which correspond so strongly to the deeply emotional experience of day and night — being about skin color. Ever consider that Jesus looks the way he does in old paintings because the painter used models in his home town? That would mean the painter wasn't focused on race at all. But why not go with the idea that all those old painters were racists who lightened Jesus up to make him look like a better class of person? What's the point? And what the hell does it have to do with Megyn Kelly?

Merritt goes on to say:
In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Advice for Living” column for Ebony in 1957, the civil-rights leader was asked, “Why did God make Jesus white, when the majority of peoples in the world are non-white?” King replied, “The color of Jesus’ skin is of little or no consequence” because what made Jesus exceptional “His willingness to surrender His will to God’s will.” His point, as historian Edward Blum has noted, is that Jesus transcends race.
Yes, Martin Luther King said some great things about getting past race. So could we? Here's what Merritt says next:
Those warnings hold just as true for believers today. 
What warnings? How is Jesus transcends race a warning? One could construct a warning: We'd better transcend race or terrible things will happen. But Merritt won't transcend race:
Within the church, eschewing a Jesus who looks more like a Scandinavian supermodel than the sinless Son of God in the scriptures is critical to maintaining a faith in which all can give praise to one who became like them in an effort to save them from sins like racism and prejudice. 
Only Merritt brought up the Scandinavian supermodel version of Jesus, but, yeah, it's critical to eschew making Jesus look like this. But who does that? If it's really so important to have the right colors to encourage everyone to identify, then a dark-haired, dark-eyed Caucasian is one of the best choices. But Martin Luther King said race is of little or no consequence, and Merritt said we were supposed to heed his warnings.
It's important for Christians who want to expand the church, too, in allowing the creation of communities that are able to worship a Jesus who builds bridges rather than barriers. And it is essential to enabling those who bear the name of Christ to look forward to that day when, according to the book of Revelation, those “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” can worship God together.

Until that day arrives, though, can someone please tell Megyn Kelly that Jesus is not white?
He just cannot let it go. Megyn Kelly must be stupid. Fox News must suck. Jesus can wait and Martin Luther King's dream will need to be deferred for however long it takes to kick that right-wing news blonde around one more time over less than nothing.

"Microaggression" — the word that died.

I've been working on the theory that the term "microaggression" briefly spiked to prominence and then utterly crashed with the story of the professor who was accused of "microaggression" for correcting spelling and grammar errors. I picked apart some details in the way that story was told here, and then I began to Google "microaggression" every day or so to see what was surfacing in the world of microaggression. It's an interesting label, possibly useful, clearly abusable, and I wanted to see where it would get put. But all that came up, again and again, was that spelling-and-grammar-correcting professor. Hence the theory that the word died.

But today's search turned up something new over at Buzzfeed: "21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis." A photographer named Kiyun got her friends to "write down an instance of racial microaggression they have faced," so this is a series of people racially microaggressed against, holding signs. This is a pretty good-humored project, and the young people who went along with the photographer's idea object mostly to dumb remarks ("What do you guys speak in Japan? Asian??"), excessively personal remarks, ("What does your hair look like today?") and — here's something to hearten the John Roberts' fans — lack of color-blindness ("What are you?").

You know there's a color-blind way to fight against microaggression: Etiquette!

Lefty cartoonist Ted Rall criticized at Daily Kos for drawing Barack Obama in a racist way.

He cries out against what he calls "censorship" even as he links to the supposedly offensive drawings as they are still displayed at Daily Kos. Clue to Rall: criticism ≠ censorship.

The funniest part of this is that the problem is that he made Obama look apelike, but that's just his drawing style:
Why did I post here for free? To access readers, many of whom would enjoy my work if they saw it. It was an experiment....

I'm sure not going to alter my drawing style for $0.00 money....
Here is the discussion at Daily Kos, which includes a deluge of comments accusing me of drawing Obama in a racist way.

Everything is context. It is clear that many of these posters were previously unfamiliar with my work or, for that matter, with editorial cartoons. 
That's how he draws. You're an idiot not to be familiar with the drawing style of Ted Rall. Plus, he didn't get paid. Ted Rall, the lefty, would bestow left-wing comics on you people if you'd pay him enough, shut up about his it-is-what-it-is artistry, and know that he is the famous cartoonist Ted Rall.
Anyone familiar with me and my work knows I'm not racist. My criticisms of the president are unrelated to his race, and to say otherwise in the absence of evidence is disgusting.... My flaws are out there for everyone to see, but racism is not one of them.
Oh, come on. Racism permeates everything, whether you are conscious of it or not, even if you think you are one of the "good" white people. It's in there. Your job is to perceive it and humble yourself. That's the left-wing ideology, so don't try to use your left-wingitude as a defense.

"Is it ever OK to borrow from other cultures?"

"The biggest issue with cultural appropriation is that it belittles the origin culture, in a way that trivializes an entire way of life, turning it into an accessory. If you are a sensitive and respectful individual, the only time it is OK, is with permission or authorization by the origin culture."

From a set a questions and answers about "cultural appropriation," provided on the occasion of Katy Perry's TV-awards-show performance cartoonishly mixing elements of Japanese and Chinese culture.

So — assuming those involved are sensitive and respectful individuals — who must get permission/authorization from what origin culture when the trope is Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot or Samurai Cowboy?

Consider the possibility that the "origin culture" is the United States.  Because the name of the culture is pop.

Another part of United States culture is free speech, and no, rest of the world, you don't have to ask our permission or authorization — and you don't even have to be a sensitive and respectful individual — to appropriate our culture, the culture called pop.

SNL: J-Pop American Funtime Now! from Antoine G on Vimeo.

Council of Croatian Community in France files suit against Bob Dylan in a Paris court, accuses him of racism.

"He was without any doubt inciting hatred against Croatians," according to the Council of Croatian Community in France. What did Bob do? In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said (as quoted at the link): "Black people can sense Klan blood, Jews can sense Nazi blood and Serbs can sense Croat blood."

What does that mean "sensing blood"? Talking in terms of blood does have a racist feeling to it. He's a poet though, so there's that tendency to use vivid metaphor. Blood is one of the great metaphors — used in 49 Dylan songs — but it's complicated and refers to many different things. The word "sense" is vague, unlike say "smell" or "taste," and tied to "blood," it can cause too much confusion, and I don't recommend judicial relief.

Here's the Rolling Stone interview (which came out last year). Check the context and the actual verbatim quote:
Do you see any parallels between the 1860s and present-day America?

Mmm, I don't know how to put it. It's like . . . the United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery. The USA wouldn't give it up. It had to be grinded out. The whole system had to be ripped out with force. A lot of killing. What, like, 500,000 people? A lot of destruction to end slavery. And that's what it really was all about.

This country is just too fucked up about color. It's a distraction. People at each other's throats just because they are of a different color. It's the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back – or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery – that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.

It's doubtful that America's ever going to get rid of that stigmatization. It's a country founded on the backs of slaves. You know what I mean? Because it goes way back. It's the root cause. If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today. Whoever invented the idea "lost cause . . . ." There's nothing heroic about any lost cause. No such thing, though there are people who still believe it.
The statement "He was without any doubt inciting hatred against Croatians" incites... negative opinions against... the person who makes that statement... in that I'm left thinking he's not too good at reading. But reading's an emotional thing. I'm continually amazed at what happens to words when they're swirled around with the readers' emotions.

At UCLA: Protesting microaggression, microaggressively.

"Rest assured I take this extremely seriously. I humbly dedicate myself to listening and to learning from this experience. Together, as a community, we will work towards just, equitable, and lasting solutions. Together, we shall heal."

Wrote Val Rust, the UCLA professor whose class was chosen as the site for a sit-in to protest "microaggression." One of various charges against Rust was that he overdid the marking up of their papers with spelling and grammar corrections. There were other offenses as well, such as failing to intervene in a classroom dialogue between 2 students in which a black male was telling a white female that she's not entitled to use "Standpoint Theory," because she's not a member of an oppressed group. Rust underdid that part of his role, in the view of the protesting students, who seem to have wanted more "support" from him.

I can understand a teacher feeling confident about correcting specific errors, but hanging back when students are arguing with each other about a matter for which there is no right answer. But I wasn't there, and Rust now says he let that "discussion" go on "for quite a while." I can't say what that classroom felt like. Teachers often think that things are going well when the students go back and forth with each other, but there are times when it's uncomfortable and the teacher should feel moved to restore harmony.

But there's something awful about exploring these issues by targeting one teacher for a sit-in. I suspect the students have learned this. "Microaggression" could have been a valuable concept for understanding racial dynamics, but by their actions, they've made it seem — to many people who haven't previously heard or thought much about the term — like a device for making weird, unfair charges against a decent person.

Ironically, the students' words and actions are what feel micro and aggressive.

If you think the NYT is inclined to explain the racial angle to all manner of stories...

... you should notice when it fails to do so, as here: "Era Fades for Helping Hand at the Washroom Sink."

The NYT readers did. One reader wrote:
I'm surprised that racism is not mentioned.... I have not seen many bathroom attendants, but I never saw a white man in the position and always felt that my tip was like a vote cast in favor of a miserable and humiliating caste system.
Ha. This is a reason not to tip?!

Another wrote:
In September I took my 14-year-old daughter to Manhattan and to our very special lunch in the City. More than the food or excitement of Balthazar's lively atmosphere, or the fantasy that she was in a Parisienne cafe, is her memory of the bathroom, and the bathroom attendant. She was astonished at the idea of a bathroom attendant even after I, her 70s disco clubbing worldly mom explained, even after our teachable moment about racism, economics, education, sexism, fine dining, NYC, etc. She thought it had to be the worst job ever -- cooped up in that tiny smelly space hoping someone would give you a dollar for a paper towel; how would a poor old lady have money to spend for a stranger's perfume? It looked like slavery to her, too. I have to agree; although I see the need for reliable sanitation throughout the workday it really is archaic and peculiar.
(I added the link to that last word.)

"Highlights of Diversity Forum 2013: Day 1."

Highlights of the highlights:

1. UCLA Professor Sylvia Hurtado said — as paraphrased by the UW student newspaper — that universities "must place student identities at the center of diversity initiatives... revise their practices to accommodate students’ various identities, and employ more advisors and caseworkers whenever possible."

2.  Columbia University Professor Donald Wing Sue talked about "microaggressions" (which was a topic on this blog a few days ago here).  Sue said: "When you are unaware of what the dynamics are and you do not have a critical race consciousness, you can not facilitate a dialogue."

3. UW Diversity Planning Committee seeks to be "a resource for the state" and also to have "the people of the state be a resource for us."

4. How to get more "underrepresented students" to go into STEM fields? There are FIGs (First-Year Interest Groups) and Mathology Boot Camp and BioHouse and Bio-Commons.

5. Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell said: "If we are truly to be serious about diversity and creating a diverse environment... Then we must have a diversity plan.”

"Microagressions, particularly those of a racialized nature, are... 'the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities, and denigrating messages..."

"... sent to (visible minorities) by well-intentioned (members of an ethnic majority in a society) who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated."
They include, in Japan’s case, verbal cues (such as “You speak such good Japanese!” — after saying only a sentence or two — or “How long will you be in Japan?” regardless of whether a non-Japanese (NJ) might have lived the preponderance of their life here), nonverbal cues (people espying NJ and clutching their purse more tightly, or leaving the only empty train seat next to them), or environmental cues (media caricatures of NJ with exaggerated noses or excessive skin coloration, McDonald’s “Mr. James” mascot....).

"Raising kids of color by white parents... requires a racial consciousness that is common in families of color, but rarely developed in white families."

Writes Frank Ligtvoet, the founder of Adoptive Families With Children of African Heritage and Their Friends. He's white, with 2 black children.
The National Association of Black Social Workers declared in a resolution in 1972 that transracial adoption was cultural genocide. The wording was, and is, cruel, but it is hard not to see its deeper truth: a Korean or black kid raised in a white world has lost his or her culture.

Black (or Guatemalan or Chinese) kids in transracial families belong to that family and also to the black (or Guatemalan or Chinese) community. Even if the white parents don’t like that idea — and there are too many who don’t — they will be confronted with it anyway.

Our daughter once threw a tantrum on a crowded street on the way to school, and the only way to move forward involved dragging. It was not a pretty sight, and a black woman who had witnessed the scene came up and, bypassing my partner, who was doing the dragging, addressed our child: “Is this your father? Is this your father?” She was claiming our daughter as part of the black community.
(None of my existing tags fit the race theme of this article. Racial politics, racial profiling, racial humor, racists, race and law, race and education, race and intelligence, race and pop culture. I resist creating new tags, but I had to do it here.)

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