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Dear White People

“Dear White People” (2014) is a US film about White racism. It follows four Black students at the fictional Winchester University, a predominately White institution (PWI) where rich White people send their children. It has since become a television series on Netflix. This post is only about the film.

The film now seems dated – even though it is only three and a half years old. It came out in October 2014, just in time for Halloween. But as it showed in cinemas, protesters were marching in Ferguson, already making the film seem out-of-date and quaint. The rise of Trump in 2016 and the Neo-Nazi violence of the Charlottesville riot in 2017 have made it seem quainter still. It now seems so 2013.

It starts with Samantha White, one of the main characters, calling out White racism on the university radio station. Even that now seems dated: in the Trump Era, White racism no longer wears sheep’s clothing – it calls itself out.

Even so, you can see the Trump Era racism already starting to show through. The Halloween party at the end, despite the costumes, becomes an unmasking, showing White people as they truly are. There is a reason they want to say the N-word. That racism has always been there, of course, since at least the 1700s, covered over in politically correct noises in the late 1900s. But with the Trump Era, Whites are hiding it less and less.

The four main characters each deal with “being a black face in a white place” differently:

  • Samantha – woke: protests, calls out racism.
  • Lionel – invisible: avoids trouble or notice, does not pick sides.
  • Troy – twice as good: tries to integrate and beat Whites at their own game.
  • Coco – coon: plays to White stereotypes to gain their favour.

Except for Samantha, they are trying to get in good with White people. And, over the course of the film they see what a fool’s errand that is. Whatever few favours they gain, they are still seen as nothing but a “nigger”.

The good:

  • A film about racism where Black characters get most of the lines. It can be done!
  • Unlike most films, it does not coon – and even makes fun of that by way of Coco.
  • It shows how Black people do not all think alike.

The bad:

  • The trailer was better.
  • Seems like it would work better as a script than a film. Some of its best lines go by too quick and are not underscored by the film. Probably needs to be watched more than once.
  • The main White character is cartoonish (but, to be fair, he is a study in nuance compared to the racist trolls on the Internet).
  • It does seem like it would work better as a television series than a film.

It bills itself as a satire. It did not seem like a satire to me.

Overall, not as as good as a Spike Lee film, but it is still worth watching. Especially since Spike Lee seems to be semi-retired.

– Abagond, 2018.

See also:

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The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro (c. -2500) is a small bronze figurine that is over 4,000 years old, found in the lost city of Mohenjo-Daro. It is the most famous piece of art from the Indus (aka Harappan) civilization (-2600 to -1600).

She is not that big: 10.5 cm tall (4.1 inches) – you could hold her in the palm of your hand. We do not know if she is a dancer – she just seems that way when you compare her to all the stiff-looking statues of the time.

She is made of bronze, a mix of copper and tin. Back then bronze was commonly used in India and Mesopotamia (Iraq) but not Egypt. In India bronze was used to make jars, pots, bowls, dishes, pans, knives, chisels, axes, bangles, rings, beads, and pins. But it was not a common material for statues.

She was made using the lost wax method. She was made first of wax. The wax was then used to make a clay cast. The wax was melted away and then bronze was poured into the cast. When the metal cooled the cast was broken.

The owner was not rich: It was found in a small house. There were much bigger houses in Mohenjo-Daro.

She is naked wearing only a necklace, 25 bangles on her left arm and four on her right. It was common in Harappan art to show genitals. What was not common was not giving her large breasts or wide hips.

Who was she? Some scholars say she was a real person, even if her arms and legs are too long. One scholars says she was Parvati, a goddess of love, even though her figure is more that of a girl than a woman.

Was she African? Like the Olmec heads of Mexico, she looks suspiciously African. Trade between India and Africa was not common back then, but an African woman from this period was found buried in the Indus Valley at Chanhu-Dara.

The Dancing Girl is culturally South Asian: she wears her hair and bangles in a style that is found in South Asia still to this day.

People in India looked Blacker back then. The statue was made nearly 1,000 years before India was taken over by the light-skinned Indo-Aryans from the north. Herodotus, some 2,000 years after the statue was made, said Indians looked Ethiopian (except for their hair). He never travelled to India but knew about the Indian soldiers in the Persian army.

Pakistan: Every now and then there is a call for India to “return” the Dancing Girl to Pakistan. Mohenjo-Daro is in Pakistan, but the statue itself is in India, at the National Museum in New Delhi. When the statue was discovered in 1926, Mohenjo-Daro was part of British India. In 1947 Pakistan broke away from India.

Under UNESCO rules Pakistan could possibly claim that the British stole it as an illegitimate colonial government. But the Pakistani government is itself is a spin-off of that same colonial government – giving it no more right to the statue than the British had.

– Abagond, 2018.

Sources: mainly Google Images (2018); ThoughtCo (2017); Huffington Post (2017); Outlook India (2016).

See also:

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M.I.A. & Santigold: Get It Up

Remarks:

This song came out in 2008 and never charted, but it is genius: powwow + rap. Wow. They sound better together than apart. Just listen to the sampled “Hood Nigga” (2007) by Gorilla Zoe on its own. Diplo and Radioclit were the music producers on this one.

There is a Malawian version used for AIDS awareness.

See also:

Lyrics:

May I see your driver’s license please?

May I see your driver’s license please?
What’s that in your cassette deck?

All the hoes jockin’, beat steady knockin’
Middle of the stage, got the whole club rockin’
Maybe you can hate but ya bitch steady watchin’
Bet she can’t do it on a dick she poppin’
We bottle poppin’, you cock blockin’
Told ya girl you rap, but ya cd floppin’
You say you gettin’ money man, we ain’t seen nothin’
Ya girl is persistent, she ain’t stoppin’

Man, she say she want a
I keep the perp by the pound
The trunk stay bumpin’
Y’all know we run the town

And I keep a bad bitch around
Thick bitch, long hair, yellow, white, red, brown
(Hood nigga)
Got my chevy sittin’ on 24’s
Flats look like flapjacks
Pancakes? You ain’t know

I’m a play the game how it go
They can take me out the hood
But I’m a keep it hood folk

And I don’t need a scale for the work
I can eyeball perp, I am not you jerk
Hatin’ on me will make your situation worse
You don’t wanna take a ride in that long black hearse
All eyes on me, shawty I’m a bomb first
I’m the truth and they say the truth hurts
Hustle mean hard work, hard work
If you scared, go to church
Man, this rap shit is easy
Every beat I get, I murk

‘Cause I’m a
I keep the perp by the pound
The trunk stay bumpin’
Y’all know we run the town

And I keep a bad bitch around
Thick bitch, long hair, yellow, white, red, brown
Got my chevy sittin’ on 24’s
Flats look like flapjacks
Pancakes? You ain’t know

I’m a play the game how it go
They can take me out the hood
But I’m a keep it hood folk

Day and night
Realize I won’t be easy
Got no light
A job, a wife that’s easy
Always standing in the door
Always the same reason you’re stuck
No guts, no guts

What will you get it up for?
What will you get it up for?
Harder, you’re still stuck in the mire

What will make you want it more?
What will make you want it more?
Harder, get more bang for your dollar

Get it up, you can get it up
Get it up, you can get it up
Get it up, you can get it up

Get it up, you can get it up
Get it up, you can get it up
Get it up, you can get it up

Sometimes I think I harden
When I feel I get fucked up
Yeah, other times I think I harden
When I feel I get spat out

Yeah, I don’t really know what you’re thinking
But I already know what you are
And this is what makes us harden
In this concrete life we got

I break ’em in like shoes and my new jeans
I throw it in like a spanner in your work pen
I watch you want more, curious to dirty things
And make it swing from being slick to new things

I break ’em in like shoes and my new jeans
I throw it in like a spanner in your work pen
I watch you want more, curious to dirty things
And make it swing from being slick to new things

Get it up

Radioclit
Rewind
Diplo

Source: letras.mus.br.

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race

What do these people have in common?

Believe it or not, I have never done a post on race:

Race (1774- ) divides humans into some three to seven breeds based on physical features like hair, eyes, nose, and, especially, skin colour.

For example:

Blacks in the US, circa 1998.

In 1985 in the US the main races were:

  • Whites – those who look like they are of pure European blood;
  • Blacks – those who look part African;
  • Asians – those who look like they are from East Asia or South Asia;
  • Indians – those who come from the Americas (Amerindians).

Coloureds in South Africa.

In 1985 in South Africa the races were:

  • Whites – of more or less pure European blood;
  • Blacks – of more or less pure African blood;
  • Coloured – mixed race;
  • Indians – those who came from South Asia.

Indians in South Africa.

Racism is the belief that some races are better than others. Not because of their power or money or religion or some other accident of history, but because of inborn qualities. Stuff like skin colour is seen as being more than skin deep. It is seen as a sign of inner qualities like intelligence, moral character, even human worth. Blacks, for example, are not just dark-skinned, but are seen as being naturally more violent, less intelligent, and less hard-working than Whites. They were just born that way. Racists believe that such differences is what leads to inequality.

Anti-racism is the belief that inequality is mainly caused by racist people and racist policies, not by any apparent racial differences (which are themselves often largely created by racist policies).

Scientific racism is racism supported by science. It was all the rage in the late 1800s and early 1900s, from Darwin to Hitler.

Map of blood type B.

Stuff to keep in mind:

  • Race is not a fact of nature. Or so says science since the 1970s. There are no White genes or Black genes – just genes that flow throughout the human species largely independent of race, like genes for blood type (pictured above). Even genes for skin colour are more determined by latitude than by race. And they have no known effect on completely unrelated stuff like intelligence.
  • Race is a social construct. It was made up by Europeans to excuse their own crimes, like slavery, genocide and colonialism. English-speaking Whites did not call themselves Whites till the 1600s. And their stereotypes about Black people arose after they had enslaved them on a large scale. People in the US would have become Tan long ago if racism did not keep apart Blacks and Whites.
  • Racial prejudice is not part of human nature. It is learned. The Us and Them feeling seems to be part of human nature, and racism takes advantage of that. But racism itself was rare before 1400. It was unknown to the Ancient Greeks, for example.
  • Race is not the same thing as ethnicity. Ethnic groups, like Arabs, Jews and Latinos, share a common culture, not a common set of physical features. Most Jews, for example, do not have a “Jewish nose”, nor is it a requirement to be counted as Jewish. But note that in English “ethnicity” and “ethnic” are often used as a nice way of saying “race” and “racial”.

Time magazine, April 10th 1972. Where the top image comes from.

– Abagond, 2018.

Update (May 24th): This post originally had this picture of “Blacks in the US”, showing Beyonce and Rihanna, which was causing some to miss my point:

See also:

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Us and Them

Us and Them (by -400,000,000) is where we divide the world into those who are like us – the Us, the in-group – and those who are not like us – the Them, the out-group. It seems to go back at least hundreds of millions of years, back to when we were fish. Upon it is built racism, religious bigotry, genocide and all the rest.

It is universal, it is deep, it is instant. It is as automatic as breathing. Which is why in the United States a White police officer can gun down a Black person and yet honestly say it had nothing to do with race. Because it took place too quick for his conscious mind to take part.

Implicit bias: The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures, among other things, how much you favour Whites over Blacks (or the other way round). It measures reaction times that are too quick to be fully conscious. That implicit bias is the very thing those “split-second decisions” that get people killed are based on. And as the tests show, racism can be part of it.

Prejudice: the Us and Them thing is further screwed up by prejudiced thinking:

  • Us: We are better than we are (collective self-esteem), our shortcomings are due to circumstances (attribution error), we got to help each other out (in-group favouritism, the main cause of discrimination, not any sort of out-group hatred).
  • Them: They are all alike (out-group homogenization), they fit stereotypes as proved by selective sampling (confirmation bias), they are worse than they are (out-group derogation), their shortcomings are because they are (ew/gasp) one of Them (attribution error).

Prejudice can grow worse if the in-group feels threatened.

That is the bad news.

The good news is that, unlike fish, humans have amazing powers of learning. The line between Us and Them is learned. That is why it is different in different parts of the world: Jew and Arab in Palestine, Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, Muslim and Buddhist in Burma, etc. That it is learned and not inborn is why you can be prejudiced against your own, as with internalized racism.

Race: In the United States the line between Black and White goes back hundreds of years. But it only goes back hundreds of years: it is not part of human nature. It may feel “natural” and seem to function that way, but that is because it has hooked into the fish brain, so to speak. That is what gives these lines their terrible power, sometimes leading even to genocide.

The lines between Us and Them are completely made up. They are hammered into our heads by our leaders, political, national, religious, and social, to increase their own power. We can see that going on right before our eyes with President Trump. When these made-up lines become part of the culture they get passed down by parent and teacher, becoming part of “the way things are”.

The Charlottesville riot: “Make America Great Again”

– Abagond, 2018.

Source: partly based on “What Divides Us” in National Geographic (April 2018); Google Images.

See also:

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net neutrality

(Illustration: The Verge)

Net neutrality (2002-2018?) is the idea that the companies which run the Internet – companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast – should not play favourites but should treat all websites equally. They should not be able to block, slow down, or charge you extra for a website like Netflix, YouTube or Twitter.

Before net neutrality, police brutality was never a nationwide issue in the US, even when it led to riots that got nationwide attention, like Detroit in 1967 or Los Angeles in 1992. Because Whites controlled the media.

Without net neutrality the Internet in the US will likely go the way of the rest of the media: controlled by a handful of big companies which determine in effect what you see and hear. The Internet was the one ray of democratic sunshine in a plutocratic world.

For and against net neutrality:

  • For: Internet content providers (Google, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, me, etc), all Democrats in the US Senate, 86% of US voters, the ACLU, Vint Cerf (Father of the Internet), Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the Web).
  • Against: Internet service providers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Comcast, etc), and all but one US Republican senator – even though 82% of Republican voters favour net neutrality!

The main argument against net neutrality is that Internet service providers will make less money and therefore put less money into what people think of as the pipes and tubes of the Internet. But that is not what Internet service providers tell their investors!

The FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, is the part of US government in charge of setting and enforcing the rules for the Internet in the public interest. Under both Republican and Democratic leadership it had favoured net neutrality policies. Until, that is, President Trump came to power. He put Ajit Pai in charge of the FCC. Pai is a former lawyer of Verizon, one of the very companies that stands to make a fortune if net neutrality is overturned.

In December 2017, the FCC overturned the net neutrality rules from 2015. Pai says that anyone who does not like how Verizon and other companies run the Internet can take it up with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a government agency which has little understanding of the Internet and little power to do much about it.

There are court challenges to the FCC ruling. And there is also:

Congress: At any time Congress can always make new rules to govern the Internet. The last time they did that was in 1996, when the Internet was little understood. There is a net neutrality bill now in Congress. It is likely to fail – even though 86% of voters favour net neutrality. You can thank in part gerrymandering and Citizens United for that, which help to make the US a functional plutocracy. But that is another story.

On June 11th 2018 the FCC’s decision to end net neutrality will take effect.

Net neutrality’s best hope will be for Democrats to take over Congress in the midterm elections in November 2018. That will depend on who shows up to vote.

– Abagond, 2018.

Update (May 16th, 22:45 GMT): The Congressional Review Act (CRA), which would overturn the FCC decision to end net neutrality, passed the Senate 52-47 in a surprise victory. It is unlikely to pass the heavily gerrymandered House. See how the senators voted at CNET.

See also:

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Remarks:

This song comes from “Bajirao Mastani” (2015), one of the top grossing Bollywood films worldwide three years ago. The film tells the love story of Bajirao and Mastani, who lived in the Maratha Empire in India in the early 1700s.

Both the music and the dance in the video are in a style classical to North India. It won awards for both the singing and the dancing. Actress Deepika Padukone dances while lip-synching the singing of Shreya Ghoshal. The Twista parts are done by Pandit Birju Maharaj.

See also:

Lyrics (Hindi with English translation):

mohe rang do laal
nand ke laal laal
chheDo nahi bas rang do laal
mohe rang do laal

color me red,
O son of Nand, (Krishna)
don’t tease me, just color me red,
color me red..

dekhoon dekhoon tujhko main ho ke nihaal
dekhoon dekhoon tujhko main ho ke nihaal
chhoo lo kora mora kaanch sa tan
nain bhar kya rahe nihaar

I see you, enraptured,
touch my glass-like, untouched body,
why do you just keep looking at it..

mohe rang do laal
nand ke laal laal
chheDo naahi bas rang do laal
mohe rang do laal..

maroDi kalaai mori
haan kalaai mori
haan kalaai maroDi.. kalaai mori
chooDi chaTkai, itraayi
to chori se garwa lagaai
hari ye chunariya
jo jhaTke se chheeni..

he twisted my wrist,
turned it,
twisted and turned my wrist..
bangles were broken, and when I lugged,
he hugged this green scarf (of mine)
and snatched it with a jerk..

main to rangi hari hari ke rang
laaj se gulaabi gaal

I was colored green in the color of Krishna,
with my cheeks turned pink with shyness..

mohe rang do laal
nand ke laal laal
chheDo naahi bas rang do laal
mohe rang do laal..

Source: BollyMeaning.com, Wikipedia.

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