Progressive Pupil released all season 1 episodes of its first podcast series Breaking Down Racism on Soundcloud. With topics ranging from “What is White Liberal Guilt?” to “Am I Black or African American?,” these upbeat podcasts provide accessible information related to everyday experiences of race. Each episode answers a frequently asked question about race with the help of commentary from today’s grassroots activists in addition to rarely heard speeches and interviews by inspiring historical leaders. The series is hosted by Black studies professor, human rights advocate and filmmaker Dr. Robin J. Hayes. It is brought to you by Progressive Pupil, a nonprofit that makes “Black Studies for Everybody” by creating documentary films and interactive media.
Comment below or while streaming the series on Soundcloud with your feedback and requests for future topics. Follow Breaking Down Racism for updates on Season 2.
Confronting a particular idea within the African Diaspora can be problematic in many ways. While certain concepts and themes are communicated across the wide and diverse scope of writers, which have enriched the continent with intuitive and poignant works, there always runs a risk of coming across as reductive and assimilative. In mingling several identities into one collective, which parts of the West continue to do, some may fail to recognize Africa as a continent composed of several unique societies rather than one country. While several artists across the diaspora have embraced a strong sense of African unity and solidarity in revolt against colonialism and forged an identity, ideas of self-image on a micro scale continue to be problematic, not only within international boundaries, but regional ones as well. Particularly for women, ideals of feminism and liberation are suddenly divided by preconceived notions of race and class, an issue which is extremely present today in the Western hemisphere. This is particularly crucial in Assia Djebar’s renowned work, Women of Algiers in their Apartment, as notions of gender, nationalism, and othering become focal points of contemplation for the female protagonists.
A quick search for #blasian on Twitter returns thousands of tweets from people talking about their Afro-Asian heritage and posting pictures of themselves or their friends. Most of the tweets highlight bits of their heritage the posters are proud of, while some have hateful undertones in their words.
How dare she? At first glance Korean American artist Nikki S. Lee may come off as a mockery. She explores the subject of identity through photography. In her seminal series titled “Projects,” you see her disguised as a member of a number of American sub-cultures and social identities: senior citizen, Korean school girl, swing dancer, lesbian, exotic dancer, and a skate boarder, amongst many others. Above you see her as a Latina woman. I was slightly offended when I saw her portraying a black woman with corn rows chillin’ wit da homies, or squeezed between her two home girls with a face full of exaggerated makeup. I questioned whether or not she was just posing for fun, or if there was a deeper meaning. To understand her better, I watched a short clip where she, in her native Korean language, talked about her artwork. She talked about how everyone has layers to their personality and how a closer examination reveals even more layers. “The work I do always needs to involve others, and that’s mainly because of my views about my own identity. I realized I could not understand who I am without the people around me. I believe that it is only through my relationships with others that I can see myself. The people around me allow me to fully express myself,” says Lee as she explains her methodology.
The term cisgender, which is often abbreviated to simply “cis”, in its most simple definition is a person who identifies as the sex/gender they were assigned at birth. For example if your birth certificate reads “Female” and you continue to identify as a woman you would be cisgender, or more specifically you would be a cisfemale. Conversely if you were assigned male at birth and continue to identify as such you are also cisgender but a cismale. Cisgender individuals are those who do not identify with a gender variant experience or in other words are gender normative.
With the structure of race, ethnicity, and culture in the United States, Afro Latinos often have a difficult time maintaining and celebrating both sides of their racial identity. From assumptions based on skin color to strict categorization in surveys and standardized testing, those of mixed heritages are often told that they need to pick a side. A study by the State University of New York at Albany found that “Hispanics who define themselves as ‘black’ have lower incomes and are more likely to reside in segregated neighborhoods than those who identify themselves as ‘white’ or ‘other.’” Even in multi-ethnic states, such as California, Afro Latinos feel pressure to choose sides or find themselves lumped into one category or another instead of being accepted as both Black and Latino.