What is a Real American?

“Where are you from?”

“Born in Florida, raised in NC.”

“No, but where are you FROM? What ARE you?”

I have had this same type of exchange with people SO MANY TIMES! When was the last time? Hmm…oh yeah, Friday. The time before that? Let’s see…it was Tuesday. No exaggeration. Several times a week, unless I don’t go out in public, someone asks me where I am from. About once every couple of months someone tells me I speak good English. Being of mixed race, and looking really Asian, has been both a blessing and a curse. I absolutely love being multicultural, and it gives me a unique perspective on racism, stereotypes, and human nature. Constantly explaining that I am born and raised here in the States, not so fun. My southern accent is incongruent with my asiany eyes, so that’s always a hilarious conversation-starter with total strangers.

Because I am a non-confrontational person, I have made an art of appearing delighted to talk to a person even though inside I am cursing him and his future generations to hammertoes and humpbacks. I work in the service industry, so it would cost me money if I made a big deal out of each and every racist comment I have ever fielded. Being a bartender was even more challenging, because the drunks loved to hit on me while making the lamest of Asian jokes. That internal filter really shuts down after a couple of Long Islands. I am proud to say that I could sweetly cut a person off and make him leave while making it seem it was all his idea. It’s a gift.

It’s not fair to get offended each and every time someone asks about my heritage. Where I am from, there aren’t a ton of Asians, though there are enough that it isn’t a weird occurrence to see one. What makes me unusual around here is that I don’t “act Asian,” so it invites comment. If I have been talking to someone for some time, I don’t mind them asking where I am from or what my heritage is. Where it gets dicey is the conversation from that point. Mentioning you like rice, for instance. Don’t do that. Saying Bruce Lee is awesome…no. Saying I look exotic…sounds like a compliment. It is not. You may, however, tell me I look younger than my age. Always ok.

The essence of the insult when people assume I am not REALLY American is that being Asian, even if you are born HERE, means that you cannot assimilate into American culture. This assumption applies only to non-white people, it seems. If one migrates from Scotland, within one generation (as soon as the taint of an accent has been removed), that white person is an “AMURRICAN, by GOD!”

Edward Said, a Palestinian-American, in his book, “Orientalism,” presented a critical analysis of how the Western world looks at and presents Eastern cultures. Cultural misrepresentations perpetuate the concept of the East as an exotic, otherworldly place that is foreign to the Western mind. It is difficult for Americans, who are particularly insulated from other cultural influences in many ways, to understand that someone with Asian features could think and act like a “regular American.”  I have experienced this mindset with both white and black Americans. In their minds, even if they understand I was born here, I have some sort of vestigial traces in my brain of whatever stereotypes they hold of an Asian person as experienced through movies or literature.

While this is merely an annoyance for me, the effects of this type of racism is destructive on a greater scale. Western tradition is considered superior (by Westerners) and takes great pride in its “eastern studies.” It is telling that eastern studies BY EASTERNERS are invalid for study. Historically, Eastern thought had to be interpreted and regurgitated by a Western mind in order for it to be properly defined.

Western arrogance leads us to believe that we can meddle in the affairs of the Middle East and “fix” all of the problems there. Our inability to consider that thousand of years of history cannot be fixed by Western “rationality” keeps us on this destructive path of war and human misery. Our paternal attitudes only further exacerbate the complex issues in that region. In World War II, this led to the internment of  thousands of Japanese Americans and the instant annihilation of hundreds of thousands with two atom bombs-the second of which had absolutely no strategic value, no matter what anyone says to the contrary. We “fixed” Cambodia and Vietnam as well. In essence, Western arrogance is white male supremacy, leading to all manner of depravity, from blaming the poor for their own problems, to war, to slavery…

“No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental. Yet just as human beings make their own history, they also make their cultures and ethnic identities. No one can deny the persisting continuities of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human life was about. Survival in fact is about the connections between things; in Eliot’s phrase, reality cannot be deprived of the “other echoes [that] inhabit the garden.” It is more rewarding – and more difficult – to think concretely and sympathetically, contrapuntally, about others than only about “us.” But this also means not trying to rule others, not trying to classify them or put them in hierarchies, above all, not constantly reiterating how “our” culture or country is number one (or not number one, for that matter).” ~~Edward Said

Exactly What Did Apple Cost This Country By Not Paying Its Taxes?


Exactly What Did Apple Cost This Country By Not Paying Its Taxes?

Apple, corporate welfare queen.

Editorial: Gov. McCrory does not needs an increase in patronage jobs – Winston-Salem Journal: Editorials

What Gov. Pat McCrory and his Republican legislative allies call “flexibility,” most North Carolinians are likely to call “political patronage.”

Last week, House Republicans passed legislation increasing a governor’s political appointees. Sponsors of the bill, which still needs Senate approval, say McCrory needs hiring flexibility to enact his policies.

Last year, when it became obvious that McCrory would win the governor’s office, his legislative allies increased the number of state government jobs that are vulnerable to political patronage. It had been under 500. Now it is 1,000. If the latest House bill becomes law, it will be 1,500.

McCrory and proponents of the bill say they need flexibility and a new employee dismissal policy to make it easier to get rid of under-performing state employees. But, when the legislature increases the number of political patronage jobs, it is admitting that the people in those jobs are not being fired – or more delicately described, laid off – because they performed poorly. These workers are losing their jobs simply because the governor wants to give their jobs to others, most likely to political allies.

That’s called political patronage, and it has both its good and bad sides.

A governor, when taking office, deserves the right to put his or her own people in jobs when those jobs are assigned policy-making duties. To deny the governor that power would deny the governor the ability to govern.

But only a small number of state workers make policy. Most state workers don’t; for sure, there aren’t 1,500 state employees who make policy decisions. With the exception of a few hundred policymakers, state employees carry out the policies designed by their superiors. So McCrory only needs 1,500 political patronage jobs if he’s planning to fill state employee ranks with his political cronies.

This legislation runs counter, in its partisanship, to the bipartisan appeal that McCrory made to voters during the 2012 campaign. It rings not of a governor trying to bring a state together but of one who would punish, by firing, those who did not support him.

via Editorial: Gov. McCrory does not needs an increase in patronage jobs – Winston-Salem Journal: Editorials.

The governor of my state, Pat McCrory, has completely abandoned his campaign stance of bipartisanship and centrist policies again and again. I didn’t vote for his sorry, lying ass, but I was hopeful that he would walk the walk after he talked the talk. Another political chameleon reveals himself to be a hypocrite of predictable proportions. Honesty and transparency in government would be so refreshing. The repressive and regressive agenda of the modern “conservative” is both heartbreaking and infuriating. When will Americans demand better from our leaders?

Haunting Photograph from Bangladesh Captures the Human Toll of Unsafe Working Conditions and the Western Addiction to Cheap Labor

A Final Embrace: The Most Haunting Photograph from Bangladesh – LightBox.

This haunting image from the Bangladesh garment factory collapse in Dhaka captures the essence of this tragedy better than any words can describe. At last count, 823 bodies have been pulled from the rubble. More than 2,500 people escaped. It is unknown how many more may lay buried after the factory collapsed two weeks ago. Just yesterday another clothing factory in the region caught fire, killing seven people. In November of last year, 112 people died in a deadly factory  fire in the same area. The workers, trapped in a locked building, were roasted alive. Survivors of the fire claimed that doors were locked and that they were ordered to return to work after fire alarms went off.

Police say that the factory owners were ordered to evacuate the Dhaka building a day before its collapse. Owners ignored the order. Mere hours before the collapse, The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association also asked that the factory be shut down.

The environment of lax regulation and close relationships between business owners and government has resulted in extremely unsafe working conditions and few worker protections (sound familiar?). International attention has led Bangladesh to promise labor reforms to prevent another tragedy.

Not so long ago, American workers faced similar working conditions. In 1906 Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, highlighting the plight of workers in the meatpacking industry. On March 25, 1911, fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York claimed the lives of 146 women laborers, some as young as fourteen, who had been locked into the building to prevent theft and unauthorized breaks. Still, millions of undocumented workers in this country deal with long hours for substandard pay in unsafe conditions.

In 2010, California passed the  California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 requiring “every retail seller and manufacturer doing business in [California] and having annual worldwide gross receipts that exceed one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000) [to] disclose its efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from its direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale.” Perhaps similar national legislation would be effective, but I believe businesses should take the initiative to institute fair-trade policies.

There is an advantage for retailers to have a transparent supply chain. Many businesses have profited by acting ethically. Patagonia is one company that has made transparency and social responsibility an important part of its business model. The merchandise is certainly very pricey for the average American, but the example is one that major retailers would do well to imitate. Greater demand for sustainably made fair trade merchandise will serve to lower costs. Wal-Mart and other mega-retailers would make a huge difference in the world if they took heed of this and other successful ethical companies.

Bangladesh is the third largest supplier of apparel to western countries, behind China and Vietnam. Many major retailers, such as H&M, Wal-Mart and JC Penney, sell merchandise made in Bangladesh. After the building collapse, western consumers voiced outrage about working conditions in Bangladesh. Typical workers receive between .30-.40 and hour and often work in poorly ventilated areas with few, if any, windows, fire escapes, or emergency exits. The problem is complex, because there are few job opportunities for the poor, in particular for women. Disney has decided to remove Bangladesh from its list of approved trade countries.

Boycotting goods made in Bangladesh is one option, but a better solution would be actual reform. Bangladesh would be economically crippled without the apparel industry, with 80 percent of exports coming from the garment industry. Retailers monitoring  each step of the supply chain and demanding safe working conditions and adequate pay for workers would make it more profitable for factories to implement those changes rather than lose a valuable client.

Since the building collapse Bangladesh has shut down 18 garment factories pending inspections to review the safety of each facility. In the meantime, millions of workers, mostly women, in Bangladesh are uncertain for their futures. As consumers, we have a powerful voice to change for the better the plight of the working poor who provide clothing for our relatively privileged backs.

Traditional Mormon Sexual Purity Lesson Contributed to Captivity, Elizabeth Smart Tells University Audience | Religion Dispatches

We wondered, just like everyone else did: why didn’t Elizabeth Smart run?  There she was, wandering downtown Salt Lake City, right in our midst, the veiled captive of a madman.

But we also recognized something in that paralysis, that deadly quiet. We recognized something of ourselves.

Now, Elizabeth Smart, continuing her elegant and courageous adult self-realization, tells an audience at a Johns Hopkins University event on human trafficking that a very traditional Mormon culture object lesson on sexual purity contributed decisively to the paralysis that kept her a captive.

She recalls that a teacher once held up a chewed up piece of used chewing gum and compared it to a young woman who lost her virginity. And after surviving sexual assault during her captivity, Smart recalls:

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

Continue Reading Traditional Mormon Sexual Purity Lesson Contributed to Captivity, Elizabeth Smart Tells University Audience | Religion Dispatches.

I don’t know much about Mormon religious teachings on sexuality, but I know a lot about Christian teachings on the matter. I know very well the shame of falling from grace, how worthless and dirty I felt. My purity sacrificed, my honor forever stained…why should I expect a decent man to love me? And it wasn’t just my Christian teachers who instilled that sense of shame. My mother taught me from a young age that my privates were dirty and she teased me mercilessly when I began to mature. Her attitude and ridicule reinforced the teachings of my pastor and teachers that the flesh is evil.

Women are also taught that they are to submit to their husbands, sexually and in all other aspects of their lives. It is only recently that laws have been passed to protect women from being raped by their husbands. The concept is still baffling to some. How can a man rape his own property? Women are blamed for their own victimization.

Dean Saxton, University of Arizona
Dean Saxton, University of Arizona student, thinks women who dress provocatively are “asking for it”

No one deserves rape. No one deserves to be shamed and treated as property. There are so many facets to the problem of sexual abuse. We cannot ignore the fact that religion often plays a role in both creating the problem and in covering it up. The shame instilled in a child when he or she is sexually maturing can create the very monster that we fear. It can also cause an abused child to keep it a secret. Even worse, it can lead to the covering up of the crime itself if and when the abuse comes to light. Many times, the victim is not believed, or is blamed for the abuse. So many of them turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. Often, they continue the cycle by choosing partners who abuse them, because it is all they know or feel they deserve.

I so admire Elizabeth Smart for speaking out on this subject. After all she has been through, she could easily have isolated herself and hidden from the public eye. Instead, she uses her horrific past to help other children who don’t have a voice. She has her own foundation that fights child abuse and exploitation and teaches kids that they have value, no matter what happens to them. 

Babies and Bushmasters, Marketing Guns To a New Generation

“Just one of those crazy accidents.”

That’s what the Cumberland County coroner in Lexington, KY said of the horrific accident in which a 5-year-old boy shot his 2-year-old sister dead with his PERSONAL RIFLE. I have a terrible feeling that the parents of these children won’t be charged for reckless endangerment or anything else. Isn’t losing a child enough? Maybe. What would we do to a parent who drove drunk and killed their child in a “crazy accident?” Unfortunately, stories like these happen regularly enough that we aren’t even shocked. Consider the off-duty policeman who left his unsecured weapon within reach his four-year-old nephew. The child picked it up and shot the deputy’s wife dead. Predictably, the sheriff called it a terrible accident. “It’s a sad, sad set of circumstances,” he said. Talk about an understatement! The deputy was not charged.

Looks like accidents like these will be an ever growing trend in the future, because the gun industry aggressively markets to children, hoping to ensure a new generation of consumers, while lobbying against even the tamest of regulations to prevent accidental discharges. The U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that 31% of unintentional deaths caused by firearms could be prevented by the addition of  a child-proof safety lock and a loading indicator. Trigger locks are somehow an infringement on the Second Amendment, however. Keystone Sporting Arms, manufacturer of the  “My First Rifle,” markets deadly weapons to the kiddie crowd, with smaller barrels and stocks in primary colors and hot pink for your little princess. It is (currently) illegal to sell guns to minors, but given the current climate of Second Amendment worship, that could change. At this point, I am not shocked by any proposed legislation.

Yes, this is for real.

My father taught me how to shoot at a young age. I knew how to check if it was loaded and was taught basic safety such as rule number one: NEVER POINT YOUR WEAPON AT ANOTHER PERSON! I was punished if I even pointed my FINGERS shaped like a gun at my little sister. Nevertheless, he always kept his guns locked up when he wasn’t using them. Because children cannot be trusted to use good judgment. Grown people have enough trouble with that.

An article extolling the merits of the Bushmaster AR-15 ended by saying “Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!” WOW. We’ve come a long way from the Red Rider BB Gun. “Mom, can I have an assault rifle for Christmas?”

It is apparent that no number of tragedies or deaths will spur the government to finally take action to enact sensible gun laws-not until the NRA and the gun lobby are prevented from buying politicians. Clearly, campaign finance reform is not even on the horizon, so you had better buy up those bulletproof backpacks and teach your young ones to duck and cover. Do they manufacture baby bulletproof vests yet? Hmm, perhaps that’s a niche market I could exploit…KiddieKevlar?

Bulletproof backpack, available in Disney Princess and Spiderman!
Bulletproof backpack, available in Disney Princess and Spiderman!