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Do Palestinians Really Exist?

"When I ask these people what the land where Israel is now located was called before 1948, they tend to stammer or offer some convoluted response. The answer is simply Palestine. Not a big deal, really.

Indeed, the United Nations debate in 1947 over the creation of the state of Israel was described in terms of the “question of Palestine.” The U.N. even explained in its official summary that “It is recognized that Palestine is the common country of both indigenous Arabs and Jews, that both these peoples have had an historic association with it,” adding that “Palestinian citizens, as well as Arabs and Jews who, not holding Palestinian citizenship, reside in Palestine.” It’s hard to hold legal citizenship of a place that doesn’t exist.”

Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League

"Experience itself has been reduced to instrumental function, via the college essay. From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify. The New York Times reports that there is now a thriving sector devoted to producing essay-ready summers, but what strikes one is the superficiality of the activities involved: a month traveling around Italy studying the Renaissance, “a whole day” with a band of renegade artists. A whole day!

I’ve noticed something similar when it comes to service. Why is it that people feel the need to go to places like Guatemala to do their projects of rescue or documentation, instead of Milwaukee or Arkansas? When students do stay in the States, why is it that so many head for New Orleans? Perhaps it’s no surprise, when kids are trained to think of service as something they are ultimately doing for themselvesthat is, for their résumés. “Do well by doing good,” goes the slogan. How about just doing good?”


The Barber of Suez by  Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat  

"One of the best examples of an Orientalist painting that appears homoerotic, at least to a modern viewer, is The Barber of Suez, painted by Leon Bonnat in 1876, a few years after his trip to Egypt…A comely young man sits cross-legged on a rug, his robe open at his neck, while another well-muscled man, wearing only a loin cloth, stands behind him, leaning over to shave his chin. The sitting man, with a look of plenitude, nestles his head into the barber’s crotch. Hugh Honour remarks on the photographic nature of the picture in which ‘these two motionless figures [are] completely absorbed into one another, sealed off in their own world, observed but unobserving’. The contact between head and genitals, the tenderness and intimacy of their barber’s gesture, as he spreads the fingers of his free hand over the side of his client’s face and the blissful look of the man being shaved, combined with the general portrayal of handsome partially unclothed black men, might well have struck responsive chords in the homosexual viewers. - Robert Aldrich, "Colonialism and Homosexuality"



Lee Michelle’s “Without You” Video: Challenging Colorism and Crafting a Beautiful Message of Self-Love

On my blog I discuss kpop quite a bit, particularly since many kpop idols are some of the worst serial offenders in terms of their antiblackness and cultural appropriation. It was therefore a pleasant surprise for me to watch this video by Lee Michelle (a biracial former contestant on the first season of “K-pop Star”), which breaks this mold.

Before proceeding I would like to briefly note that there have been biracial stars in Korea before. But when we talk about “biracial” or “mixed” children in the context of Korea, it’s so important that we think critically about what we mean when we say “mixed”. When kpop sites talk about “biracial” kpop stars, they default to white and typically mean mixed “white-Korean”. They will go so far as conflating the experiences of mixed white-Korean children with those of black-Korean children in the same article and somehow think that their articles still have credibility. These experiences are simply not the same and conflating them together is not only intellectually lazy but insulting. Yes, Korea has a relative obsession with racial purity which does affect both groups, but global white supremacy, colorism and virulent antiblackness makes the situation for mixed black-Korean children significantly worse than that of mixed white-Korean children.

[image description: a portrait of Tasha Yoon Mi-Rae, a biracial half-black Korean R&B artist who has spoken eloquently about colorism in her music Photo via Generasia]

The lived experiences of people like Daniel Henney (mixed white-Korean) who get widely praised for their features and appearance, and that of Lee Michelle who is half black, dark skinned, has coarse hair and does not have passing-privilege as full Korean are not the same. Colorism already affects darker-skinned Koreans in incredibly damaging ways, and intersecting that experience with racism makes this doubly hard for mixed-black Koreans.

And so Lee Michelle’s presence in the industry matters.  Tasha Yoon-Mi Rae has discussed colorism and the discrimination she has faced for her mixed-black heritage eloquently in her song “Black Happiness,” and in a similar way “Without You” has also struck a chord with me.

[image description: a promotional picture of Lee Michelle Photo via 24-7kpop]

“Without you” lyrically is a breakup song directed at one man, but the chorus in particular is significant in which she asserts: 

I’m beautiful without you
I’m meaningful without you
I’m still beautiful even if I wasn’t loved by you

And then she continues:

I’m so angry
Everyone treated me like you did, baby
Now I’ll erase you and wipe my tears
So I can receive a love that’s better than yours and different from yours

With these words, Lee Michelle asserts her beauty for herself and for the listener in turn. For a dark skinned, mixed black girl growing up in South Korea to assert this in the midst of a society where light skin and racial “purity” are prized and antiblack sentiments are rampant is a radical act indeed. Without a doubt Lee Michelle typically grew up hearing everything but “you are beautiful.” It is almost certain that like other mixed black children in Korea, she was mocked and teased mercilessly for her hair texture, “black” feature and dark skin. These things in the eyes of many simply precluded her from beauty, she was “ugly”- simple as that.

So in this song, ostensibly directed at one boy, we find a declaration of self-love and emancipation from damaging colorist, racist, societal standards of beauty. If you’re not going to love yourself in a society which doesn’t cherish people who look like you, then who will? Lee Michelle finds this answer within herself, which is a theme echoed by the music video.

[image description: an image still from the “Without You” video of a young biracial [black-Korean] girl]

In the video, a young biracial (mixed black-Korean) girl is shown walking down the street before she lingers on the image of a black graffiti figure. As she peers at the figure, she suddenly begins to run, being chased by an unseen monster. I saw this as representative of the unseen, but pervasive societal pressures pushing her from accepting herself, her blackness and her features, even at that young age.

Being chased into a shelter, she then proceeds to draw many figures with dark features on the wall. Staring into a mirror, she then proceeds to powder her face white and put on lipstick. A white-washed version of Lee Michelle then appears on camera with a light powdered face, red lips and straightened hair to evoke an image of the person this little girl “aspires” to be—an image crafted in the crucible of societal beauty standards that denies her as beautiful the way she is. The little girl begins to weep. There is ultimately no joy or happiness in self-rejection and hatred.

[image description: A screencap from the “Without You” video of the young biracial girl crying with white powder on her cheeks and bright red lipstick on her lips]

This all comes full circle at the end of the music video when this little girl begins to throw paint balls at a colorless portrait of Lee Michelle. This scene evoked for me the acceptance of oneself regardless of your skin color and in the face of interlocking systems of domination which deny you your agency and being. The ecstasy on the little girl’s face as she throws each paint bomb and asserts this again and again is so indicative of this. To complete her journey to self-love and actualization, she then walks through a magical door of light, which appears on the wall she just painted, and approaches an adult Lee Michelle. They look at one another and smile and Lee Michelle sings “Without you, I’m alright” one last time.

A message of self-love indelibly crafted which will resonate with people who suffer from colorist and racist standards of beauty across the globe. A moving video, and I wish Lee Michelle the best with this promising start to her professional career, and I am incredibly glad that YG Entertainment no longer has their hands on her, given their history of antiblackness. Congratulations, Michelle!

 I would like to thank all of my followers who took the time to send me links to this video and made me aware of it. You’re the best!

Related articles:

+ Kpop’s Top 10 Racist Moments of 2013

+ How problematic is the kpop world? (Master post)

+ Tasha Yoon-Mi Rae’s “Black Happiness” music video

+ EXO’s colorism and denigration of Kai


Black Life, Annotated



Alice Goffman’s critically acclaimed ethnography On the Run is another story about a white lady come to study young black men. Who thought this was a good idea?

Alice Goffman’s On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American Cityis the latest installment in a sociological tradition that subjects black life to scholarly scrutiny. An “urban” ethnography of a mixed-income, black neighborhood in West Philadelphia in the early 2000s that Goffman calls 6th Street, On the Run is “an account of the prison boom and its more hidden practices of policing and surveillance as young people living in one relatively poor Black neighborhood in Philadelphia experience and understand them.” To produce this “on-the-ground account” of a “community on the run,” Goffman took on the role of participant observer.

Mentioned alongside Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim CrowOn the Run’s many admirers say it not only reveals things that “we” do not know about what is being done to a portion of the population, it centers that population’s negotiations of an unlivability produced by policing and all-too-often drowned out by the (right, liberal, and left) white noise of calls for increased ”security.” Goffman’s admirers believe that she has provided “extraordinary” new insight into how and why black life is lived under and against occupation. They anticipate that On the Run’s reach will extend far beyond the US academy and that it will shift and extend conversations and public policy about policing. They expect, too, that it will illuminate, for those who have been able to remain blind to it, the scope and devastating impacts of the carceral state on the lives of (poor) black men and women.

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Prof. Sharpe, Thank you.

Re: Mike Brown, Ferguson, and Antiblackness - A Personal Opinion?


It’s hard to watch the near-constant devaluation of black bodies and black existence and not feel like something is coming for you or is wrong with you. I mean, the sheer of amount of antiblackness in this country is stifling, and to see it constantly being DEBATED and DISCREDITED and PUSHED…

"Do we really have to qualify Mike Brown’s human existence with “he was going to go to college”? Academia is not the only thing that makes human life valuable. “Being a good kid” is not the only thing making human life valuable. Is not the mere fact that Mike Brown was alive and part of a community enough? How do you define what makes a person “valuable” in the first place? Respectability politics are honestly beside the point in these conversations.

Here’s how respectability politics fail: they assume that if you stay out of trouble, speak “correct” English, avoid looking violent / suspicious / thuggish, and get an education, then you will be safe. And yet, people who do these things are preyed on regardless. The above “standards” should not be standards of whether you treat someone like a human being worthy of life and existence. We need to stop acting like there would be less to mourn if someone wasn’t a “good kid.” It is not up to black people to act and be a certain way to avoid being killed; it is up to the murderer to stop treating life like a contest of who can be the most respectable / docile. Assimilation does not save all lives, and I don’t believe that erasing certain aspects of one’s culture and community to do so is the answer. You can still be killed despite your “goodness.” I know how to be a “respectable black woman.” I also know that it cages, doesn’t save you, and keeps you small. It’s not a way to live. There’s more to me than my ability to impress you or keep quiet.”

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police |

This country has spent the last several centuries systematically killing Black people. Black death is built into the system. Black death, alongside Native American genocide, built the system. Yet, whenever yet another unarmed Black person is killed by police, it’s somehow our fault? We must’ve been threatening/drunk/holding a BB gun/maybe possibly shoplifted some candy? Because after 500 years of never needing a reason, they suddenly need a reason? No. No. They have never needed a reason.

I understand how hard it is to accept that as a Black person your life means so little in this country that you can be killed by police for nothing. That walking down the street while Black can be the only reason your life, or the life of your son or daughter or father or partner or friend, ends. You want there to be another reason, any other reason.

Yesterday on Twitter, @prisonculture wrote, in response to a tweet suggesting Black people can dress better to avoid being murdered by the authorities: …”looking the part” doesn’t help you brother…I’m so sorry. I feel so much compassion for you. How do you absorb & internalize that you are killable, always killable? You create your own fictions. To survive, to live. I understand. I, too, understand that it’s hard. Almost too hard to bear. Who wants to have to carry these things? Especially when you’re young and dreaming of a life without barriers based on your skin color. But pretending we can “respectable” ourselves out of racism is dangerous. And it will not save you.

Please don’t let respectability politics distract you from the issue. The issue, again: yet another unarmed Black teenager murdered by police. His name was Mike Brown.

Staying with the real issue, thanks.

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