Friday, May 30, 2008

Ain't Nothing Wrong with Oklahoma ...

... that ain't wrong with the rest of the U.S.

Over on AlterNet, a progressive opinion site I found back in 2004 as I was working through the depression caused by the election results, there's a column titled "Xenophobia and Anti-Gay Legislation Galore: What's the Matter with Oklahoma?" (yup, thanks, Thomas Frank, for re-introducing that phrase for us to overuse). The article, written by someone who lives here, gives a fair, though sensational, account of what's been going on legislatively in our state over the past few years, with HB 1804, the latest attempts to get English as the official language (have fun with those lawsuits, if that ever passed!) and Sally Kern's "I got the Bible behind me" rants against GLBTs. And he concludes the article with a fair question that someone who loves his home would ask:

Still, the question remains: Why have these sorts of comments and such legislation gained traction in Oklahoma and other parts of the United States?

I say this is a fair question, because if you live here, you know, we're for the most part good folk. I can't remember where I read this, but someone once said that despite the racism, sexism and gay-bashing in the South, there's no place better if you're in immediate danger, like if a tornado took out your house or even if your car breaks down on the side of the road. We're helpful, we're kind to our neighbors in times of need. So yes, it's a fair question because in order to help our more status-quo-loving sisters and brothers see the terrible consequences that racism, sexism and heterosexism have on their lives and even their souls, we have to ask it. Why does xenophobia get expressed so easily, not just here, but everywhere? What are we so afraid of that we've targeted infants whose parents lack legal documentation?

Typically, the commenters at AlterNet prove that being progressive is not immunity to stupidity. Here's a taste:

what college-bound young Okies do when they graduate from the local universities. Where do they go to find work? Their attitudes must be soooo out of sync with most Americans, who happen to live in large metropolitan areas, that they must appear as freaks. Who would hire them?


Been there Too- My sister lives outside Tulsa.Beautiful state, but nearly all appear to have been beaten repeatedly about the head as children. Is there any laws regarding marriying your 'Brother Daddy'...Though Not.


Lots of contradictions and totally illogical unfactual reasoning from their elected governing body. The message is clear to me though, stay out of Oklahoma.


God Bless Commie Red Facist Okalahoma. The former home of the late Timothy McVeigh, Americas first citizen terrorist. Pardon me if I never visit your state again. But then again I am sure NONE CONSIDERED THE EFFECTS ON TOURISM of this most communist repressive state. Why don't you just cecede and declare Putin your leader. He has no problems with policies and laws of this sort.


All you have to do to these poor slobs in OK is hypnotize them with guns and bibles and keep them frothing at the mouth on social issues such as guns, god, gays, flag-burning, patriotism, terrorism, machoism, abortion, etc ..., and BINGO, they're yours for the RAPING, er "taking" !


Although many of the comments are fair, mostly from people who either live here or have lived here or have family here, this just goes to show how easy it is to fall back into superficial, narrow-minded rhetoric as easily as Ann Coulter. I know I shouldn't be surprised, Oklahoma has a bad reputation, and stuff like this doesn't help it on the world stage, but stereotypes piss me off. And then there's the whole "No one makes fun of my sister except me!" thing going on. I live here, I live under this shit and fight against it, I live next door to these folks and am related to many who have the same opinion and I love them and they love me despite our differences in opinion, and I'll be damned if they're going to be judged like this by people who don't know them. I'll do that, thank you very much, I've earned it. After all, criticism works best when it's delivered by someone you love.

So, go over to AlterNet and let those ignant people have it. And let's really ask ourselves what we can do about shit coming out of people who make us look so bad in the media's eye.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I love these commercials, for one reason or another the chorus just brings to tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Could be because I'm a rabid watcher of Discovery Channel (Yes, I'm addicted to Deadliest Catch. And How It's Made. And Mythbusters. And Dirty Jobs. I think most of what I watch when I can watch TV is on Discovery Channel.). Could be because it's based on a children's song and it makes me nostalgic for those nice hazy fall days in Mrs. Siegle's first-grade class when Mr. Crow was teaching us to sing old folk songs. Or it could be that the chorus just gets to me, because it's so true.

I love the whole world
And all its sights and sounds
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada ...

I love the whole world
And all its craziness
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada ...

I love the whole world
It's such a brilliant place ...
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada ...

What were we thinking when we decided that the world was bad and some otherworldly heaven is good? Let's hear it for material existence. It really is just awesome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Take us out, Mr. Sulu

George Takei is getting married! Yay!

Now that California Supreme Court has ruled that all Californians have the right to get married, Takei and his partner of 21 years are fulfilling their dream wedding. As you might have guessed, George Takei is one of my heroes. When I was growing up, we watched all the shows that featured Asian people, even if we didn't like them, simply because, I realize now, my mom was lonely for faces that were familiar to her. So we were regular watchers of Quincy, M.E. for Robert Ito and Star Trek for Takei. We watched that awful Shogun miniseries and Hawaii 5-0 and anything that remotely had an Asian cast. But I was always a fan of Star Trek, because I'm a big nerd, and my favorite episodes were Sulu-heavy (The Naked Time, which features a hot Takei brandishing an epee and Shore Leave, where he gets the girl. (Huh, I didn't realize that Sulu was actually haafu -- half-Japanese and half-Filipino. Go figure!) Anyway, he was always a hero of mine when I was growing up. Here was this guy who looked like me who was steering the Starship Enterprise and doing all sorts of heroic deeds. He was not a red-shirted ensign who would die in any episode, but permanent! When I was growing up, I never had any idea that the world would give people like me any shit, because there was Mr. Sulu in that spot, and if Mr. Sulu was there, if Sam from Quincey was there, hell if Margaret Cho was there, why couldn't I be there someday, too?

When Takei came out a few years ago, I was happy that he was taking that brave step to again lead people forward. And now he's getting married! He wrote about it on his blog and compared the laws that prevented GLBTs from getting married to same-gender partners to the discrimination he faced as a child in the internment camps.
As a Japanese American, I am keenly mindful of the subtle and not so subtle discrimination that the law can impose. During World War II, I grew up imprisoned behind the barbed wire fences of U.S. internment camps. Pearl Harbor had been bombed and Japanese Americans were rounded up and incarcerated simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Fear and war hysteria swept the nation. A Presidential Executive Order directed the internment of Japanese Americans as a matter of national security. Now, with the passage of time, we look back and see it as a shameful chapter of American history. President Gerald Ford rescinded the Executive Order that imprisoned us. President Ronald Reagan formally apologized for the unjust imprisonment. President George H.W. Bush signed the redress payment checks to the survivors. It was a tragic and dark taint on American history.

With time, I know the opposition to same sex marriage, too, will be seen as an antique and discreditable part of our history. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy remarked on same sex marriage, "Times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper, in fact, serve only to oppress." (SOURCE: Takei's blog)

He was, is and always will be my hero and one of my biggest role models. Thank you, Mr. Takei, and congratulations to you and Brad. I wish you all the happiness in the world!

Monday, May 12, 2008

8 Things Never to say to a Mixed-Race Colleague

I found this post (8 Things Never to say to a Mixed-Race Colleague) through Racialicious today. I just got done writing about hybridity and mimicry issues in the Antioch Controversy, as presented by Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, and a portion of that paper had to do with racial/ethnic identification. Interesting that this article would be published today, if I hadn't turned in my paper already I'd include it.

Anyway, here's my answer on these 8 things. And yes, while I understand that people are caring individuals who are trying to express their appreciation or affection by trying to know more about the person, we really need to start questioning why we feel the need to know. And just so you know, I get these questions asked at me ALL THE TIME.

1. "What are you?"

I have to say, this question beats the hell out of "Where are you from? No, really, before that, where are you really from? At least it's honest, they really want to know why I look the way I do. Actually, most of the time I get, "What tribe are you?" because I seem to look either Cherokee or, it seems, Eskimo (that was the last one, "Are you Eskimo?"). Go figure. But here's the thing: What am I? Well, as much as I'd love to be, I'm not Gallifreyan. I'm not a Cylon, either. That alone should give you ample fodder for a more productive conversation about what I am (i.e. a huge sci-fi fan. And, oh yeah, HUMAN.). You don't get to ask this question without coming across as a total idiot, as there's no way to ask it intelligently.Trust me, if you're really my friend, it'll come up in conversation.

2. "What's your nationality?" "You look foreign."
If I lived in any other country on the planet, I'd have somewhat more sympathy for askers of this question. Nationality seems to have a racial/ethnic component to it in most of the world; that is, if you ignore the reality of minority populations in most countries that have been oppressed or dismissed (ainu or Roma, for example). In the U.S. -- we have no racial/ethnic component. Everyone gets to be a estadounidense. And unless you're First Nations, you're a foreigner, too.

3. "You're all beautiful." "You make beautiful babies."
Thanks for the objectification. So I guess beauty really is skin deep? That must mean that your monoracial kids are butt-ugly.

4. "Are you X or Y?" "Which side are you more on?"
The interesting thing about this question is, it's in the mind of the questioner more than it is mine. It also plays into the idea that we all wear just one identity. I identify with both my sides, more so one than the other at certain times and in certain environments, but it's not like my Asian side goes away when I'm at the calf fry singing along with Hank Junior. And it's not like we round up, either, i.e. I identify 55% with my Asian side, so that makes me really Asian. Nope. And there are no benchmarks: I don't speak, read or write Japanese, I don't often cook Japanese food and I'm not a Buddhist, and even if I were, there are plenty of non-Asian people who do any or all of these things.

5. "How in the world did your parents meet?"
This is a silly question in this day and age. We're so global, people move around so much, people from all over the place meet other people from all over the place. I actually don't get this question as much as I get the "Did your parents meet during the war?" And then I wonder which war they're thinking about, because I'm not THAT old.

6. "You're the future." "You're the best of both worlds."
Heh. If I'm the future, then does that mean you're history? Trust me, just because you're mixed race does not mean you're the answer to the world's problems with racism. We don't shag our racism away. And if in the future we were all mixed-race, then we'd just find another reason to be an ass about. And that "best of both worlds" thing is crap, too. Trust me, I get the worst, too, just like anyone. And again, thanks for the objectification.

7. "You don't look ..." "You're not ..." "You sound white."
I get to decide what I am, thank you. That's the right of any human being, we get to determine our own identities, even if they fall outside of the little check-here boxes. And I used to get the "You sound white" thing all the time, at least in the form of "You don't look like I expected when I talked to you on the phone." I found pretty quickly that the best way to get a comment from someone over the found was to match your accent to theirs so you'd sound like one of the bunch. I'm from here, I can have a local accent. But I really watch too much TV to sound local all the time. And what does "sounding white" mean, anyway?

8. "Aren't we all mixed, anyway?"
Technically, yes. There's no such thing as a genetically pure person. Race is a social construct. But if we really did accept that we're all mixed, then you wouldn't be pestering me with these questions, would you? The fact that I claim my biracial mix wouldn't be an issue. We'd all accept that we're each different.