Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

Archive for the ‘race’ Category

Article on “hyphenated” labels for ethnic groups

Posted by thuicc on August 27, 2008

Saw this article via H-USA, an e-mail list I’m a member of:

Does the institutionalized usage of hyphenated-nationalities help, hurt, or distract a country from more pertinent issues?

America is a country of immigrants.

One side of the American street prides itself on not seeing the person as a combination of ancestral ethnicities but, instead, each individual becomes a culmination of their life experiences.

The other side of the American street takes pride in the achievements of their ancestors and believe their ancestor’s struggles, sacrifices and oppressions are intrinsic to who they are and how America treats/sees them.

This boulevard of contrasting views pervades most aspects of American social laws and policies. Almost every social issue faced by our judicial and/or legislative bodies, on national, state and local levels, have an ethnic/racial purpose or impact and we spend inordinate amounts of time debating, protesting, defending, and balancing these facets.

There is the beginnings of a new movement within our country to re-think the use of ethnic qualifiers to the American nationality. African-American, Hispanic-American, or
your-ethnicity-goes-here-DASH-American is of questionable benefit to the nation’s social fabric and, debatably of course, does more harm to national unity than good.  This same debate was part of the nation’s conversation at the turn of the 20th century when it was the German-Americans, Irish-Americans, and Polish-Americans that qualified their nationality.

In many aspects, where America goes, so goes the world.  Before any other country steps into this pit of social identities, there are some questions the people of that country should ponder:

  1. Are institutionalized hyphenated-nationalities  good for a country’s unity and socio-mentality or is it an institutionalized contradiction to the term “nationality”?
  2. Can you belong to more than one country and, if so, what happens when the two countries have conflicting policies?
  3. Can you maintain the cultures and customs of your ancestral homelands while still assimilating fully into your birth country?
  4. Does the use of hyphenated-nationalities proclaim an aversion to the idea of assimilation?
  5. Is the use of the hyphenated qualification a two edged sword that cuts both ways?  In other words, can you expect your country to treat you different because of your hyphenation but treat you the same despite your hyphenation?

What are the ideas of migration researchers in these points? What influence does the use of hyphenated labels by migration researchers have?

William Myrick Thomas
dolarbil@gmail.com
www.dropthedash.com/fusion/html/links.html

What do you think? Is the author addressing an important point? Check out the website and see what you think. (Note: I don’t necessarily agree with him myself…)

Posted in cultural classifications, identity, immigration, race, United States, websites | 2 Comments »

Muninn on “Foreigner Shock Meltdown” in parts of East Asia

Posted by thuicc on November 22, 2007

(Hmmm… long title…) Muninn has a great post discussing what happens in places like Japan and Korea when a stranger (someone clearly not native to that country) comes on the scene: “a paralyzing shock [is] exhibited by natives of the country when faced with a non-Asian, especially ones who show some proficiency in the language.” He describes three kinds of reactions to the foreigner:

1) Faced with a Caucasian (or, I assume, any other not-Asian-looking individual), the Korean or Japanese person in question will have complete a meltdown, and do their utmost to complete the entire transaction (at the post office, store, restaurant, etc.) without making any eye contact or speaking a single word. In extreme cases they can completely crap-out and request help from the manager or other co-worker before even beginning the transaction or confirming that their customers does not, indeed, speak Korean/Japanese.
2) If the NALI (not Asian looking individual) is in the company of anyone who looks even remotely Asian, they will completely ignore the existence of the NALI and speak/recognize only the Asian looking person. This will continue even if a) the NALI continues to respond to questions and speak passably well in the native language of the Japanese/Korean person in question and/or b) if the Asian looking person in question in fact does not at all know how to speak Japanese/Korean.
3) Faced with a NALI, the Korean or Japanese person in question will panic and try to communicate in a non-grammatical mix of their native language, really bad English, and hand signals. This can happen even if you speak passably well in the native language of the person and have not yet shown any inability to understand their regular Korean/Japanese.

It’s an interesting read–check it out!

Posted in Asia, greetings, nonverbal communication, politeness, race, websites, whiteness | Comments Off on Muninn on “Foreigner Shock Meltdown” in parts of East Asia

Do Hajjis have Racial Discrimination?

Posted by kyleepai on October 30, 2006

Hello, I’ve watched the film of Hajj and seen some discussions between my classmates and partners from
Kuwait. I found that some people’s questions are just like mine, and just like my classmates, I am also very impressed and amazed about Hajj and Hajjis. The film shows that how belief directly influence people’s actions and minds; I felt very moved when the Muslims melt into tears because they finally came to
Mecca. The process of the
pilgrimage Muslims take to the holy city of
Mecca is full of difficulty
, but Muslims can overcome it. So, I think that their painstaking to attain their goal in life is praiseworthy and I admire their firm and persistent determinations. I remember that a forty-year-old man said that Muhammad can do it when sixty and he can do so. However, I still feel confused somehow. My question is just like what Rachel mentioned.

In the video, there is a black man who receives unfair treatment when resting at the tent during the pilgrimage. I am wondering if this violates God’s wish of every man is equal? Besides, there is an American woman who joins Hajj as well. She says she still gets people’s doubts of her being Muslim.

Why couldn’t the black stay in the same tent with the other people? To quote in the film, ““God doesn’t look a face. God doesn’t look a body…God is looking for what? Your heart! ” I think a faithful heart is more than everything, but I don’t know if Muslims think so. Do they have racial discriminations? Although in the end of the film the black and the American woman are glad that God accept them, I still want to know why they have some unjust treatment during the pilgrimage. What I am wondering is that why God can accept them but the other Muslims can’t; it really confuses me.

Posted in Kuwait, race, religion | Comments Off on Do Hajjis have Racial Discrimination?

The place of married un-kuwaiti women in Kuwait

Posted by sydneylee on October 29, 2006

Hi, I am Sydney.After reading the Wikipedia about Kuwait, I have a question about the place of married un-Kuwaiti women in
Kuwait. A guy mentioned “
many Kuwaiti men were married to females from
Philippines.” I think that’s an interesting point. Taiwan has the same phenomenon that more and more Taiwanese men would like to marry girls from Vietnam and
Philippines than Taiwanese girls. We call them “Foreign Bride” (I don’t like this name very well). Anyway,some believe that most of these men have bad financial situations, so that they have to find wives from other countries. Others think that it is the growing of feminism which makes Taiwanese women become dominate in family and society, which makes Taiwanese men try to marry tender wives from Southeast countries. So I am curious about the reason of why Kuwaiti marry women from Philippines, and how these women are treated in
Kuwait.

Posted in immigration, Kuwait, race, sexuality, Taiwan | 2 Comments »

Hajj and Islam

Posted by rachelhsu on October 29, 2006

It is really impressive for me to see the emotional and spiritual impacts a religion has on so many people. When watching the video clip on Google, I was really touched and amazed by all the Muslims’ strong beliefs in God and their continual devotions. One of the significant scenes in the clip for me is when an old man says his prayer and then begins to cry – I can as if to feel his connection with God. But here I have some questions about this video: Frist,what is the significance of the cover on Kabba? Why do Muslims have to make a new one every year for the Hajj? Second, why do the Muslims walk in circle around the Kabba seven times? Is there any particular meaning behind ”seven times”? Actually, I quite like the idea of wearing white robes (how do you call them?) when attending the sacred ceremony to make everyone equal in front of God without the difference of sex, gender, race, status, so on and so forth. However, in the video, there is a black man who receives unfair treatment when resting at the tent during the pilgrimage. I am wondering if this violates God’s wish of every man is equal? Besides, there is an American woman who joins Hajj as well. She says she still gets people’s doubts of her being Muslim. I don’t know if the race of pilgrims will make any difference or draw special attentions?! It will be great if you can answer my questions. 🙂

Posted in race, religion | 3 Comments »

Immigration and race in the United States

Posted by thuicc on April 7, 2006

There’s a post over at the Savage Minds anthropology blog that discusses some issues related to the idea that the United States is an immigrant’s dream. Kerim Friedman (who teaches at National Donghua University) argues that

The reason immigrants tend to do well in America is not because America is a more welcoming society, but because we already have a permanent racial underclass in our African American population! (And, to some extent, Latinos and Native Americans as well.)

He contrasts this situation to European countries where the underclass is made up of immigrants. There are a lot of interesting comments in response to Friedman’s post, including some discussion over the idea that a lot of immigrants in the U.S. (particularly undocumented immigrants–what many people call “illegal immigrants”) do work that American’s don’t want to do. As Ozma writes,

This argument—that undocumented immigrants do work that “no one else wants” or “no one else is available to perform” masks both extant forms of institutional discrimination AND the fact that undocumented immigrants are hired to perform work under abusive conditions rather than hired to perform work for which no other workers are available. Their desirability as workers is not about general scarcity—it is about specific forms of exploitation.

(I would argue that this is similar to the situation of foreign laborers in Taiwan.) Anyway, we will discuss this in the fall when the course begins and we get into issues of subcultures and minority groups.

Posted in immigration, race, Taiwan, United States | Comments Off on Immigration and race in the United States

Some critiques of the movie Crash

Posted by thuicc on March 18, 2006

Since Crash is about race relations in the U.S., and since it won the Oscar for Best Picture, it’s probably something that students of intercultural communication should see to find out what it’s saying. So I borrowed the DVD a week ago and watched it.

I was not particularly impressed with it, I have to say, although I generally like movies that Matt Dillon is in. It seemed too preachy to me–it was more like an essay than a movie. I was also troubled by the treatment of Asians in the movie. There are a couple of posts on the blog Mixed Media Watch that also have critiqued Crash‘s portrayal of Asians (see here and here. They point out that the major characters in the film–black, white, and Persian–appear to be redeemed (to an extent, I’d say) by the end of the film, and the Latino characters don’t seem to need redemption. But the Korean characters are stereotyped and unredeemed at the end. They are not portrayed with any complexity at all. As commenter Christine Hong writes,

every other character come full circle, gaining some measure of redemption, except for the asian couple. the audience sees no resolution to their sinfulness whereas the sins of the other characters have some sort of reason or explanation. i am so conflicted about this movie. i am saddened because once again asians are left to the wayside, left there to rot in the unfavorable context in which the writer and director as created for them. it is apparent that writers and directors who do these kinds of films don’t give a shit about the whole truth of asian american lives. by no means are we flawless, but damn it, i wish someone would give us some measure of respect as human beings.

MMW also has a critique of the movie’s Oscar win here.

American movie critic Roger Ebert defends Crash, calling it

a movie of raw confrontation about the complexity of our motives, about how racism works not only top down but sideways, and how in different situations, we are all capable of behaving shamefully.

Now, I’m sure that people are complex and that everyone is capable of behaving badly, as Ebert says. But I can just as easily look at that Matt Dillon character (the racist cop) and say to myself, “Well, I’m not racist because I would never do the things he does.” And I can look at the Ryan Phillippe character (the cop who doesn’t think he’s racist) and say, “Well, I’m not racist because I wouldn’t shoot a hitchhiker (actually I wouldn’t even pick up a hitchhiker).” So the liberal white guy can come out of this feeling good about himself, not necessarily being challenged about any racism that lurks under the surface in his mind.

Derik Smith, writing in The Black Commentator (via MMW), argues that the movie “relies upon and covertly promotes social narratives that are problematically racist”:

It seems that, upon finally reaching an era in which polite company forces most to acknowledge that racism is inexcusable regardless of circumstance, America’s favorite “race movie” is now asking us to temper our judgment of the embattled figure of the bigot.

Smith also points out that one of the main black characters in the film, a carjacker named Anthony (played by Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), actually says some very “thought provoking” things about the situation of African Americans in the U.S.:

He thinks that white, corporate America may stand to benefit from the rampant use of the word “nigga” in contemporary hip-hop; he wonders why the names of black revolutionaries have been lost to history; and, although he’s a thief, he doesn’t want to steal from his own people.

But the movie doesn’t encourage us to accept those ideas as valid:

Yet almost as soon as they are uttered, Crash makes them laughable. The politicized commentary of the paranoid black man is framed in such a way that it ends up becoming the movie’s most consistent source of comic levity.

No conclusion here, just some things to think about if you get to see the movie.

Posted in movies, race, United States | 5 Comments »

Appropriating cultures

Posted by thuicc on March 8, 2006

There’s an interesting entry at TheThink about “racial ownership“–by which the writer, Phillip Moore, is describing how certain ethnic groups seem to consider aspects of their culture as their own exclusive property and are offended by or ridicule anyone from other ethnic groups who try to borrow or adapt those cultural aspects. For example, Moore asks:

Just because I am black, should I ridicule Japanese society for adopting hip-hop and putting their own spin on it, even when most of the Japanese who are die hard hip-hop fans know absolutely nil about the true origins of hip-hop, which date back to Afrika Bambaataa and The Last Poets in the 70s? Should I make fun of them for wearing their clothing in a seemingly awkward style, in what would seem a desperate attempt to mimic the flawless hip-hop styles of African-Americans? Should I trash the term “J Rap” as a term for nothing more than Japanese wannabes?

He also criticizes Asian Americans (in particular, Asian Americans whose ancestors came from East Asia) who make fun of people from other ethnic groups who get tattoos with Chinese/Japanese/Korean characters on them. He implies that such people (or, on the other hand, African-Americans who make fun of Japanese [or Vietnamese or Chinese] rap) are often being hypocritical.

What do you think?

(Via Mixed Media Watch, where they’re discussing the post, also)

Posted in identity, media, race, websites | Comments Off on Appropriating cultures

Lotsa responses

Posted by thuicc on October 6, 2005

Here are the responses I made–and some I didn’t get to–in today’s class discussion.

  • Most people got the idea (which I think is true) that Althen has a somewhat “white” view of what Americans are like. He argues in another part of his book that “The predominant ideas, values, and behaviors of “mainstream” Americans are those of the white middle class. People in that category have long held the large majority of the country’s most influential positions. They have been the political and business leaders, the university presidents, scientists, journalists, and novelists who have successfully exerted influence on the society. American culture as talked about in this book, then, has been strongly influenced by white middle-class males.” (xxiv) So he’d argue that what he’s describing is the mainstream of the U.S.
  • As people said, the “Communication Patterns” article gives us a view that while (if Althen is correct) white middle-class males might represent the mainstream, there are a lot of other kinds of groups with different values and practices. Jen used the term “multiple generalizations” to describe the article. As Erica mentioned, there’s a shift between the contrast of Americans with the “outside” world in Althen to looking at contrasts within the U.S. in the “CP” article.
  • As I mentioned, to be fair to Althen, his book contains more than just the chapter on communication styles. But one thing he doesn’t do in his chapter on race and ethnic relations is try to account for racial/ethnic factors that might affect communication styles. (I’ll put this book in the dept library later)
  • Regarding a comment by Evonne about Asian Americans (I think) use of eye contact: what might account for the differences you mention between the article’s description of Asian Americans avoiding eye contact for too long and what you describe as your view that it’s important to look at speakers of elders while they’re talking? (How/where did you learn that it’s polite to do this? I’m thinking of how we might try to figure out what might account for the difference you see.) Ceilia suggested, for instance, that the “experts” who wrote the article might have been coming from the “outside” of the culture, so would see things differently. She also mentioned that the experts might learn things from other experts. (There are a lot of things we could say about that…)
  • Stephanie suggests that Althen is writing with “a pretty high ego” when he describes Americans. What might give you that sense? Any particular passage you could point to?

OK–I could comment a lot more, but this post is already too long! I’ll have more to say later in the semester. (Jennifer’s comment has me thinking about something related to face, for instance…)

Posted in cultural classifications, cultural patterns, identity, race, stereotyping, United States, whiteness | 9 Comments »