05/05/2011 § Leave a comment
An interesting case study from America.
“According to the Department of Health and Human Services, depression is the second leading cause of death for Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women between 15 and 24, who consistently have the highest suicide rates among women in that age group. AAPI women over 65 have the highest rates of suicide among all races in that age group.”
12/02/2011 § Leave a comment
In a historic move, the New York City Council has publicly called on all residents, young and old, rich or poor, black, white, Asian and Latino to voluntarily stop using the word.
The ban is a symbolic one, a plea for the public to stand in solidarity to re-stigmatise the word.
For years the “n-word” has carried a stigma which is so strong that most American journalists and writers have chosen not only to refrain from saying it, but also to refrain from writing it.
I actually am a reformed n-word user.
As a product of a mixed-marriage – my mother is African American and my father white – I grew up in an extremely racially diverse community near San Francisco.
I used the n-word among friends, at school, singing along to songs. I used it carelessly without thinking much about it. It wasn’t uncommon to hear my Filipino friends say to my Korean friends “what’s up nigga”.
Even among white kids, it was used ironically as a term of respect to one another… a way to fit in or identify with friends of other races.
Thinking of it now, our ancestors (both black and white) would be rolling in their graves as they listen to black kids greet their white friends with “what’s up my nigga”, or whites doing the same to their black friends.
Indeed it’s become a part of our language, and sadly I don’t remember feeling ashamed of using the word. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I would never have said it around my parents or family. And perhaps that’s the key.
I suppose the hope is to shame people out of using the word in a very public effort.
But are young people even listening?
Words are multidimensional. And they mean different things to different people. But how can a word used to categorically dehumanise an entire race of people ever be flipped around to be used as a term of endearment?
Some African-Americans argue that by reclaiming the word, by owning it for themselves, the word can take on whatever meaning they ascribe to it.
In other words, they argue it is possible to reinvent the n-word and change its connotation.
Words can be painful and incredibly emotional. The n-word was born in the context of American slavery.
The first written documentation of it in print form was in 1786. It was used by white slave masters to label their black slaves.
Centuries later, it has enjoyed a rebirth among mostly young folks who have never known the context in which it was once spoken. And this is the problem.
We do not hear our elders saying: “Hello my n…, how are you today?”
My grandfather, raised in part by his grandmother – a freed slave – doesn’t greet his friends with the word.
In fact I have never heard him, or anyone else in my family use it. So why did I?
Generational perhaps? And that is exactly what young people say today.
My great-grandmother once asked me if I knew what the term “cracker” meant. Cracker is often used in a derogatory context to describe white people.
It too has had a rebirth among some whites who jokingly refer to themselves as “white trash” or “crackers”.
For all I knew, the term cracker referred to the white colour of saltine crackers we eat. So I always thought we called white people crackers because they were the colour of crackers. End of story.
Apparently not so. My great-grandmother told me that the term “cracker” was used by slaves to refer to their white slave owners as the man who “cracks the whip”.
Crackers were the masters who beat their slaves.
Words carry weight.
Perhaps the gesture by the city council is to encourage people to be more considerate and sensitive to the legacy of the word.
So the debate continues. Though New Yorkers will not face fines or penalties for using the word, those on the New York City Council hope that people will consider carefully the context and connotation of the n-word and make an empowered decision to stop using it.
Published: 2007/03/01 15:45:53 GMT
© BBC 2011
30/01/2011 § Leave a comment
Travelling from NZ, this is what impressed me the most
in Melbourne – they have an Immigration Museum! maybe it was also the company of an amusing Italian (2nd generation) guy i stuck up a conversation with on the bus that contributed.
From 18th of March they are introducing a permanent exhibition “Identity: yours, mine, ours”;
“The exhibition focuses on how cultural heritage, languages, beliefs, and family connections have, and do, influence our self perceptions and our perceptions of others. Our perceptions can lead to discovery, confusion, prejudice and understanding.” – Immigration Museum website
There is also a link on their home page to “Origins” website where you are invited to choose a place of origin which leads to detailed information based on census data on the history of immigration from that land.
Eg: on Russia:
… “After World War II many Russians arrived on assisted passages from Displaced Persons camps in Europe. Their numbers in Victoria increased from 1,401 in 1947 to 13,762 in 1954…
In 2006, there were 5,684 Victorians born in Russian Federation, the majority of whom lived around the suburbs of Caulfield and Carnegie… Most members of the community today are employed as professionals, and speak Russian at home (yay!).” – Origins site from Museum of Victoria
The museum seems to have a very balanced and positive outlook; “What would it take to make you leave your homeland and travel thousands of miles to another country?” begins one into into an exhibition. There is a lot said about new identities, about diverse Australian identities, and a big emphasis on acknowledging peoples different heritages. There is an acute sense that this place acknowledges that one of the biggest difficulties of immigration is sacrificing the environment where you grew up and having to begin afresh in an alien environment, but at the same time that is also what can unite us. – What can I say they make me feel warm and fuzzy!
06/10/2010 § Leave a comment
My joy knew no bounds when I got news of this through Youthline, and just in time to register too! I think these are very exciting and important first steps not just for the organisation but even for all of NZ society. (Maybe there are other events with with similar aims but i’ve been on the look-out and I think it must mean something that i’ve seen nothing to compare this to.)
Finally something like this is happening in New Zealand!
MYNZ is a daughter organisation or a ‘youth unit’ of Shakti, most excitingly it is by youth for youth. (Shakti works to protect immigrant women’s rights, operating from West Auckland from 1995.)
Migration brings with it issues related to settlement, acclimatization to new cultures, cross-cultural barriers, etc. For the youth from immigrant communities, the process of integration while having to live in a traditional environment at home and adapting to western-value based environment outside of home, is a lot harder.
The Youth Conference, MYNZ (Migrant Youth New Zealand), was held on May 27, 2010 with the primary goal of empowering young people of Asian, African and Middle descent to talk openly about the challenges of living in New Zealand. (With input from four other youth organizations: BODY SAFE, YOUTHLINE, YOUTHLAW and MIXIT.)
It was a day-long event that targeted 15-21 year olds and aimed to provide a space them to identify and address issues specific to their experience, build understanding about cross-cultural aspects and help shape their sense of identity in New Zealand. Topics included: cultural ‘juggling’, racism and bullying, family, love and safety, gender issues as well as information sharing by groups who provide support services for immigrant youth.
Although the conference was a while ago now, work continues and a comprehensive report was published in June 2010 (surely available on inquiry) which continues to plot MYNZ’s future.
29/09/2010 § 1 Comment