After being inspired with David Henry Hwang earlier this week (and buying a copy of Chinglish), I should have known that it wouldn’t last. From the people who brought us Rebecca Black, we now have Chinese Food.
I’ve always wanted to do what Stella Choe does in this video. This is for all the Asian-Americans who have been asked “Where are you really from”?”
Yesterday, a number of students got together for a very civil demonstration of support for the Multicultural House (see all this editorial) on my campus. The anger and hurt was palpable, and in this article was given voice by an American physician:
Like a malignancy, it had crept in when I least expected it — this repugnant, infectious bigotry we have become so accustomed to. “White privilege” was on display, palpable to passersby who consoled me. I’ve come to expect this repulsive racism in many aspects of my life, but when I find it entrenched in these smaller encounters is when salt is sprinkled deep into the wounds. In these crystallizing moments it is clear that while I might see myself as just another all-American gal who has great affection for this country, others see me as something less than human, more now than ever before.
At the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles Police Department sent 80 police officers to shut down a campus-registered party with mostly black students attending, while allowing another party across the street with mostly white students was allowed to continue. Last weekend, we had a similar incident (but not at the same scale, obviously) where a Black Student Coalition House party scheduled to end at 2:00am was shut down at 1:30am; in our case, however, after initial questions from our students why they had to shut down early while the other predominantly white parties could continue, the campus police shut down all the parties early.
While these isolated incidents are not directly connected, all are symptoms of our failure in American culture to address the issues of difference that divide us. We continue to have these issues paved over by resolving smaller conflicts while not addressing the fundamental issue of how power is shared beyond its traditional privileged groups. We are again back to debates of being in a post-racial society after Barack Obama’s historic election to the American presidency, mostly because this is an issue that people largely do not want to talk about.
Florida governor Rick Scott’s attack on anthropology in 2011 was nothing new, and should be taken seriously (but not taken to heart) by anthropologists. I myself often wonder about the impact of the things we do as professional social scientists. But anthropologist Rachel Newcomb (and Davidson alumna) perhaps best makes the case for what anthropology can do for Florida and everywhere else.
As part of a liberal arts education, it’s clear that anthropology’s greatest contribution is in teaching; developing skills in social analysis, exposing students to the diversity of cultures and ethnicities in our globalized world, and nurturing humane instincts in future leaders. Many of us are also involved in various issues, such as Rebecca Ruhlen. In a recent article in the Charlotte Observer, Ruhlen responds to a critique of breastfeeding advocacy. In brief, Ruhlen reminds readers that there are more costs and benefits involved in our everyday decisions than economistic determinants evaluate:
Ruhlen said it may be true that breast-feeding isn’t free, “But no form of infant care and nurture is free. Mothers who wean in order to work for pay earn more money than mothers who don’t,” Ruhlen said. “But they also have to pay for child care, formula and more doctor visits and medical care.” Ruhlen said a more beneficial and useful discussion to have in regard to breast-feeding would be how society can shift some of the costs of infant care and nurture off mothers without disrupting breast-feeding.
This article also highlights one of the problems that we as anthropologists face as a discipline: the reporter identified her primarily as an “advocate” and not as an anthropologist. It is not easy to demonstrate how a holistic, largely qualitative discipline shapes the perspectives and culturally-shaped instincts that inform how we think, which is why I believe anthropologists are often identified by other markers such as regional specialist or advocate.
For more on this issue, explore the American Anthropological Association’s new website that tries to re-introduce anthropology to the wider public.