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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The "English-only" Movement Hits Professional Sports

The "English-Only" movement has, in recent years, been mostly targeted at Spanish-speaking immigrants. No we're not gonna teach you in our schools in Spanish, or provide Spanish legal documents or ballots, etc.--you're in American, damnit, so speak American--oops, I mean English!

Now comes word that the LPGA tour, for professional women golfers, has instituted a policy requiring all players to be conversant in English or face suspension. (See While the tour has players from 26 different countries, the policy is primarily targeted at the 45 South Korean players. The justification: "“It is important for sponsors to be able to interact with players and have a positive experience.” says Kate Peters, tournament director of the LPGA State Farm Classic. Oh, and it's for their own good: We want to help their professional development,” deputy commissioner Libba Galloway says. “We want to help our athletes as best we can succeed off the golf course as well as on it.” How thoughtful and beneficient of them. This altruistic change was implemented, not with input from players, not by distributing the policy in writing, not even by holding a meeting with all players. No, only the South Korean players were singled out in being called to a mandatory meeting at the Safeway Classic to inform them of the new policy. Nice, enlightened folks running things there at the LPGA. Brilliant. How 21st century. You can just imagine the executives griping behind closed doors: "I mean they all look alike, and their names sound the same--they're completely indistingishable to fans. Who cares if they can play golf--we can't market them! We gotta do SOMETHING!" Kind of resembles the "literacy test" used to deny minority voting rights in days gone by. The stupidity of some folks never ceases to amaze, huh?

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Relax--She's a Brady Bunch Black"

Michelle Obama knocked it out of the park tonight with an impassioned, heartfelt, convincing speech. And her Mom's narration of the video struck just the right tone--that friendly old black lady you admire for instilling the "right" values in her family. What stuck out to me, though, was her brother's reference to her memorizing every episode of The Brady Bunch growing up. Not Flip Wilson, not Good Times, not even the Mod Squad or I Spy or All in the Family. TV never got more whitebread than the Brady Bunch--Southern California suburbia, where the weekly crisis was not how to get food on the table or dealing with hatred or injustice, but that darned pimple that pops out just before the school dance, or the voice that squeaks while going through the adolescent change. The message? She's safe, she's one of us. She's not militant. She memorized her idol Marcia Brady, not Malcolm. For a minute, I even saw Marcia reflected in Michelle's neatly coifed hair curling up to her chin on either side, shimmering as she shook with passion. (I guess it'll be another 50 years before an African-American woman with a natural can be seen as an acceptable First Lady candidate. Or a hundred...)

It's not just bigots that speak in coded language. The message tonight to middle America was clear: Don't worry--she's not THAT kind of Negro--you can trust her, and trust that she would have never MARRIED THAT kind of Negro, either, so he's all right, too, by association.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Small Nations Come out big on Medals per Population

OK, so this might be a stretch to include under "race," but it does point to nations low on the world power scale doing better than the "big boys" (is that sexist?) when it comes to relative strength on the Olympic stage. (It also reveals how wacky I am when it comes to calculating odd statistics)

Yeah, the U.S. led in overall medals, and China led in golds, but "it so happens" that those are two of the biggest three nations, population-wise, in the world. A fairer measure is medals (either gold or overall) in relation to population. Here, then, is my top ten lists as compiled from the 2008 Olympics medals table and Wikipedia for population estimates:

Fewest people per medal won:

1. 165,500 Bahamas (2 medals, 331,000 pop.)
2. 246,727 Jamaica (11 medals, 2,714,000 pop.)
3. 316,000 Iceland (1 medal, 316,000 pop.)
4. 405,800 Slovenia (5 medals, 2,029,000 pop.)
5. 465,087 Australia (46 medals, 21,394,000 pop.)
6. 469,500 Cuba (24 medals, 11,268,000 pop.)
7. 475,000 New Zealand (9 medals, 4,275,000 pop.)
8. 477,850 Norway (10 medals, 4,778,500 pop.)
9. 500,333 Armenia (6 medals, 3,002,000 pop.)
10. 510,000 Belarus (19 medals, 9,690,000 pop.)

By comparison, the U.S. had a medal per 2,772,000 people, and China: one per 13,257,000. All the major Western European and East Asian countries, with the wealthiest economies in the world, had over a million people per medal won.

Fewest people per GOLD medals won:
1. 452,333 Jamaica (6 golds, 2,714,000 pop.)
2. 760,000 Bahrain (1 gold, 760,000 pop.)
3. 1,314,500 Mongolia (2 golds, 2,629,000 pop.)
4. 1,341,000 Estonia (1 gold, 1,341,000 pop.)
5. 1,425,000 New Zealand (3 golds, 4,275,000 pop.)
6. 1,465,000 Georgia (3 golds, 4,395,000 pop.)
7. 1,528,143 Australia (14 golds, 21,394,000)
8. 1,592,833 Norway (3 golds, 4,778,500 pop.)
9. 1,896,667 Slovakia (3 golds, 5,402,000 pop.)
10. 2,029,000 Slovenia (1 gold, 2,029,000 pop.)

By comparison, the U.S. won a gold for every 8,470,639 people, and China: one per 25,994,000.

Sad to say, though, that many developing countries with large populations won few or no medals: India, with well over 1.1 billion in population, won only 3 medals (1 gold); Indonesia, with almost 232 million, wone only 5 medals (1 gold); Pakistan and Bangladesh neither won any medals despite both having populations larger than Russia's. The Philippines (over 90 million) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (almost 63 million) were also shut out of any medals, while Vietnam (over 87 million) and Egypt (over 75 million) were each limited to one bronze.

Still, it's nice to see predominately black countries of the Carribean (Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas) doing relatively well against the powers that be.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Benefit of Civil Rights to a Southern Segregationist

A story Joe Biden told when asked to give a eulogy at Strom Thurmand's funeral:

"When I first arrived in the Senate, in 1972, I met with John Stennis, another old Southern senator, who became my friend. We sat at the other end of this gigantic, grand mahogany table he used as his desk that had been the desk of Richard Russell's. It was a table upon which the Southern Manifesto was signed, I am told. The year was 1972.

Senator Stennis patted the leather chair next to him when I walked in to pay my respects as a new young senator, which was the order of the day. And he said, Sit down, sit down, sit down here, son. And those who serve with him know he always talked like this.

And he looked at me and he said, 'Son, what made you run for the Senate?' And like a darn fool I told him the exact truth ... I said, 'Civil rights, sir.' And as soon as I did I could feel the beads of perspiration pop out of my head and get that funny feeling. And he looked at me and said, 'Good, good, good.' And that was the end of the conversation. (LAUGHTER)

Well, 18 years later, after us having shared a hospital suite for three months at Walter Reed and after him having tried to help me in another pursuit I had, we'd become friends.

I saw him sitting behind that same table 18 years later, only this time in a wheelchair. His leg had been amputated because of cancer. And I was going to look at offices, because in my seniority his office was available as he was leaving.

I went in and sat down and he looked at me as if it were yesterday and he said, 'Sit down, Joe, sit down,' and tapped that chair. And he said something that startled me. He said, 'Remember the first time you came to see me, Joe?' And I shook my head, I didn't remember. And he leaned forward and he recited the story.

I said to him, 'I was a pretty smart young fellow, wasn't I, Mr. Chairman?' He said, 'Joe, I wanted to tell you something then that I'm going to tell you now. You are going to take my office, aren't you?' And I said, 'Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.'

And he ran his hand back and forth across that mahogany table in a loving way, and he said, 'You see this table, Joe?' This is the God's truth. He said, 'You see this table?'

And I said, 'Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.' He said, 'This table was the flagship of the Confederacy from 1954 to 1968.' He said, 'We sat here, most of us from the Deep South, the old Confederacy, and we planned the demise of the civil rights movement.'

Then he looked at me and said, 'And now it's time, it's time that this table go from the possession of a man against civil rights to a man who is for civil rights.'

And I was stunned. And he said, 'One more thing, Joe,' he said. 'The civil rights movement did more to free the white man than the black man.'

And I looked at him, I didn't know what he meant, and he said in only John Stennis fashion, he said, 'It freed my soul, it freed my soul.'

from Jonathan Martin's blog on Politico,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Multiracial Decathlete

One more example that we are living in an age where racial mixture is breaking down the old rigid categories: American Olympic decathlete Bryan Clay. On the verge of winning gold, Clay is described as "part African American and also a third-generation Japanese American" born in Austin, Texas and raised in Hawaii (like one of the most famous multiracial persons of our age).
He is part African American and also a third-generation Japanese American.

Of course, people of mixed racial heritage have always been with us, but we didn't label them that way. Those of both African and European blood were always labeled "black" for various nefarious reasons, while Mexicans of mixed Indian and white background became a label unto themselves, recognizing neither race of origin.

It might be noteworthy that the rejection of rigid labels seems more prominent among folks like Clay and Tiger Woods of an "exotic" mixture of Asian and African blood; white-black mixtures like Obama, Derek Jeter, Halle Berry, etc. still tend to maintain more of a black identity, again for complex reasons. It's a generation thing, too, with younger folk tending to reject the "either-or" dichotomy accepted by their parents.

Look Too Young? Blame it on Race!

This excerpt from "Gymnasts’ parents 'indignant' over age questions"
By NANCY ARMOUR and JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press Writers (See full article at

"China coach Lu Shanzan said the parents are 'indignant' over persistent questions about their daughters’ ages.

'It’s not just me. The parents of our athletes are all very indignant,' Lu said. 'They have faced groundless suspicion. Why aren’t they believed? Why are their children suspected? Their parents are very angry.'

In an interview with The Associated Press, Lu said Asian gymnasts are naturally smaller than their American and European rivals.

'At this competition, the Japanese gymnasts were just as small as the Chinese,' he said. 'Chinese competitors have for years all been small. It is not just this time. It is a question of race [emphasis added]. European and American athletes are all powerful, very robust. But Chinese athletes cannot be like that. They are by nature that small.'"

My comment: Of course, while this is consistent with most folks' essentialist view of race, it flies in the face of the social constructionist view, as well as all biologicical evidence about the superficial nature of race, having little to do with genetic differences in physical abilities and characteristic. What do you think? Maybe I'm being racist, but many of the Chinese female gymnasts sure look 13 or 14 to me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2/3'ds world Olympic Medal Standings

OK, so excluding North America, Europe, the former Soviet republics, Australia/New Zealand, and the developing/developed nations of East Asia, here's what it looks like for the (mostly nonwhite) nations I find myself cheering for:
Cuba: 1 Gold-5 Silver-5 Bronze=11 total
Kenya: 2 G,4 S, 2 B=8
Brazil: 1-0-5=6
Jamaica: 2-3-0=5
Indonesia: 1-1-3=5
Zimbabwe: 1-3-0=4
Ethiopia: 2-1-0=3
Turkey: 0-2-1=3
Mongolia: 1-1-0=2
Argentina: 1-0-1=2
Algeria: 0-1-1=2
Columbia: 0-1-1=2
Bahrain: 1-0-0=1
Cameroon: 1-0-0=1
India: 1-0-0=1
Panama: 1-0-0=1
Thailand: 1-0-0=1
Tunisia: 1-0-0=1
One silver each: Chile, Ecuador, Malaysia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and Vietnam
One bronze each: Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Morocco, and Togo

Tropic Thunder movie

I heard that Tropic Thunder was the number one movied opening last week, knocking Dark Knight out of the top spot after several weeks. I'm surprised that I've heard little buzz positive or negative about Robert Downey Jr's character's portrayal of an African American in the movie-within-the-movie. I haven't seen it, but the pics of Downey are a convincing make-up job--no black face minstrelry, anyway. Still a risky proposition, though...

Anybody seen it? What'd you think of the Downey character?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Alternatives to the Statue of Liberty

In some of my reading in the past year I came across the revelation (duh!) that the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island has her arms open wide to Europe, but her back turned to Native Americans, Latin Americans and Asians, and not exacting addressing head-on the Africans to her right. So I came across the scrawled notes I made in a moment of my own revelation (or insanity, you judge):

If Lady Liberty only represents the European experience in America, who might best represent others' experience (as it has been, not as we would like to think it to have been)?

Jus-Trus-Tus Man at Jamestown, VA facing inland: a white Englishman with a mischievous smile and wampum and pipe and a pen extended to sign the treaty at his feet.

Aunt JeMine-now and Don Forgetit at Charleston, SC facing ESE: large black woman in scarf and apron on one knee, with white man hovering over her, whip at his side, eyes leering.

Senor (with the curly thing over the "n") Sorryboutdat at Brownsville, TX facing SSW: stereotypical Mexican in Sombrero with smile and hands pulling empty pockets inside out, hunching his shoulders as if to say "What can I do about it?" while holding redrawn map of Mexico, with top 40% (N. of Rio Grande) Xed out.

Coolie CmonGedout CmonGedout in San Francisco Bay, CA, facing W: flimsey cardboard figure, crouched, hands on knees, leaning inland or out toward the sea, depending on which way the win is blowing.

And the latest addition, since 9/11 (the problem was there much earlier, but not brought to the "Park Service"'s attention until then): Mister Y.R.U. Heer Muslindoo in Washington DC: South Asian or Middle Eastern-looking (they're indistinguishable to most whites' eyes anyway) with ripped up Koran and Hindu sacred texts, along with denied passports and terrorist lists, at his feet

Olympics and Race

Maybe I'm just looking for it, but I see race all over the Olympics this year. The biggest story has been the Spanish basketball team's photo of them slanting their eyes like they're east Asian. Sure, it was stupid and insensitive. I still don't get what the "joke" was supposed to be--a five-year-old saying, "Look at me, I'm Chinese!"? Interesting that the American b-ballers, all of them, I think, black (or biracial, i.e., Jason Kidd, if you prefer)(guess they forgot the token white this year--anyone remember the Duke All-American who carried the spit bowls for the original Dream Team?)anyway, they felt they were held to a higher standard (dress code, behavior, etc.) than their fellow NBAers from Europe. What do you all think?

Then there is Jeremy Wariner, the defending 400 meter champ whose appearance is white (though vaguely non-Anglo-Saxon ethnic) and whose talk and manner makes me think this is a guy who grew up with street cred among nonwhites, and might even be more comfortable around them than among whites. Call him track and field's Eminem.

Finally, the ever-troubling aspect of black-majority African countries of South Africa and Zimbabwe being representing primarily by minority whites. Gotta be the effects of power and money and access, no? I read that the South African field hockey team had some controversy as to whether the government was enforcing a quota of "coloreds" on the team. Affirmative Action backlash in sports: as if! If opportunities and training facilities were leveled, the "coloreds" would outnumber the pasty faces by a mile, IMHO.

And Zimbabwe owes all its medals so far to a white female swimmer. The pictures of her acclaim among Zimbabwe's blacks after her '04 win were heartening, I gotta admit, given that country's racial climate.

I find myself scanning the medal standings by country. Yeah, I'm kinda curious about the U.S.-China thing, and where Russia, Germany, U.K., etc. stand, but I really delight in seeing 2/3rd's world countries like India, Indonesia, Kenya, Algeria, Mexico, and others in Latin America have a little success. Too little, unfortunately. And I'm always amazed that Cuba, even without Soviet support for 20 years now, still wins far more medals than any other non-English-speaking country in the Western Hemisphere, including countries with much, much, more people. How do they do that?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

And Away We Go!

I'm studying race and ethnicity, inequality, etc. in sociology grad school. That means a lot of talk about race. Kinda weird, this sheltered ivory tower where the topic is not just OK but the center of attention (though it's still egg-shell walkin' at times). Cause outside those Ivory Walls, race is considered worse than politics or religion to bring up in "polite" company, unless, of course, you're of the same race and confident that your fellow conversants feel just like you about the "others."

Anyway, I don't know if this will get outside the ivory walls of the blogosphere, and I can't be sure that things will always remain as civil as I hope on such a volatile topic, but if we're gonna make any progress on what many believe is the fundamental challenge of our society, we can't clam up about it.

By the way, I'm white. If there were such an organization as Racists Anonymous, I'd introduce myself thusly: "My name is Steve, and I'm a racist." Not that I want to be, mind you. Not that I'm proud of it. But admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery. I've made some progress, and got a good ways to go both in learning more about the subject of race, and in dealing with myself. I might qualify as a "recovering racist;" not recovered, but ...