"Whiteness" in Europe & Tumblr’s US-centric SJ Discourse

blackinasia:

Dear blackinasia

You are one of the best US-SJ people on tumblr I have ever read, very mindful of the differences in the concept of “White” in different counties and I am really need your advice on this problem, if you are willing to give it, of cause.

A lot of spending SJ people on tumblr are rather US centric, when it comes to defining racial categories and react very strongly when you try to talk about other places and categories, especially if they perceive it as a white-on-white issue (because that would have been a white on white issue in the states, and they would be rightfully outraged by the oppressor group trying to occupy their spaces and derail the whole thing).

It is understandable to a certain extent: your own pain is always closer and more real then the one that is removed from you (That’s why I think the concepts like Asian Privilege are born: Out of the perceived lesser oppression other discriminated groups are experiencing)  

As a non-American/non English native speaking person, who have discovered a lot of communality of experience with the American people submitting and writing SJ blogs, I am not sure as to what should I do:

On one hand, I am quite sure that the discrimination I am experiencing is real and based on the idea of whiteness and my lack of the proper amount of it. It brings me considerable discomfort and led to some rather bad internalized feelings I feel towards my own people and culture, I am still trying to get rid of, but I don’t think that I will ever be able to. 

   On the other hand, the racist structure of the States lacks the category I belong to, and defines me as properly white (I don’t live in the States (this IS important), cause if I did, I wouldn’t be facing a lot at all)

What should I do?

1)      Start speaking at risk of being dismissed due to the prevalence of the US-discourse in the tumblr-sphere? ( But, I don’t want to give the American whites additional derailing arguments since I have seen enough “but the X where white and faced horrible discrimination” arguments, which conveniently ignored the fact that in all these cases the group in question was defined as NOT WHITE in their own respective context).

I feel like it can potentially harm people I do not want to be harmed at all: people who are oppressed by the idea of white superiority in the States.

2)      Or should I remain silent, implicitly enforcing the universality of the US idea of white ?

I am starting to feel that the whole thing makes me feel a slight resentment towards the wrong kind of people, I otherwise agree with: You know the thing you feel when an otherwise splendid feminist is denying racism, or an antiracist not believing in sexism , the feeling of disappointment in people who get one aspect of it very well, not getting their own privilege in other aspects (In this case: Being American and having the power to define the discourse in even the international spaces due to the relative cultural power of the States). I don’t think I should feel it, but then again, why should we be mindful of the American structures when the Americans don’t need to know anything about ours before starting writing?

Should I just step away from the English speaking discourse on this matter?

Sorry if my thoughts are a little bit to jumbled at this point: I have been reading a lot of the US social justice blogs without writing anything about it for about half a year and came to the point I can’t ignore this duality anymore.

————-

Hi there,

Thanks so much for sharing. This is one of many problems that I have with Tumblr’s SJ discourse, as you’re exactly right in saying that it tends to be incredibly US-centric and myopic. What does “POC solidarity” look like in the Arab World where there is local Arab supremacy and a long history of racism and enslavement of African peoples and a more recent history of SE and South Asians laborers and maids who also face abuse and tremendous discrimination? What does “POC solidarity” look like in a world where the global imperialist leading drone strikes against black and brown peoples in the Third World is a black American man? What does the very term “POC” mean, and, for that matter what does “white” mean within and without the US geographic context, in Europe especially?

I have written about this topic of “whiteness in Europe" previously but anything that challenges or acknowledges problems with Tumblr SJ discourse tends to not be as "popular." For context, I have had the tremendous privilege to have been able to travel abroad considerably and currently have family in both Africa and Europe, so I have witnessed, read and heard personal accounts providing testament to just how important local context is in local conceptions of race especially.  

For some reason (maybe due to lack of exposure or just buying into the American global hegemony which breeds myopia in both white and non-white Americans), it’s hard for people on here to wrap their heads around the fact that the following people would not be considered “white” in their home countries due to their ethnic background:

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(Image description: Portrait of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the Chechen American Boston Marathon bomber. Chechens and other peoples from the Caucuses are specifically targeted for discrimination in Russia and are not seen as “white.” My friend, blackgirlinrussia, remarked to me how she, as a black woman, would never get stopped by Russian police, but those who “looked” like they were from the Caucuses always were)

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(Image description: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin, 1/4 Romanichal famous British comic who purposefully hid his Romanichal heritage to pass as “fully” white in British society)

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(Image description: Portrait of a little blonde girl with pale skin and light blue eyes, the “blonde angel" whom Greek authorities kidnapped from her adopted Roma parents thinking that she was white. DNA tests later showed that she was Roma. Roma face rampant antiziganism in Europe, lighter skin can afford some privilege, but they are still subject to antiziganism and are racialized as non-white as Roma regardless.)

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(Image description: A picture of 3 blonde Irish Traveller girls who face institutionalized discrimination and disenfranchisement in Ireland and the UK. Irish Travellers are not a Roma subgroup)

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(Image description: Portrait of a blonde Polish woman. Polish people face discrimination within the UK today based on their ethnic background and were also specifically targeted for extermination by Nazi death squads along with other Slavic peoples.)

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(Image description: Portrait of Simone Veil, a French Jewish member of the EU Parliament and also a survivor of Auschwitz, Jewish people, including those with pale skin, are distinctively racialized as non-white throughout Europe)

A lot of Americans just don’t seem to /get it/. They don’t understand how important local histories and context are in shaping the way race is “seen” in any given country, although this should be patently obvious. Whiteness and race, are fluid categorizations that change on a temporal and geographic basis. When we fix ourselves in our current local context and deny the experiences of others, like you, our analyses not only lose nuance, but we reproduce systems of oppression (e.g. American dominance of global discourse) as well. 

When I was in Sweden this past summer visiting family, it was a huge wake up call for me. My cousins there are 1/4 black and 3/4 white and would, without a doubt, “pass” for white in America, but they do not pass in Sweden. One of my friends there is South Asian and lives in the ghetto. The ghetto in Sweden is very mixed with (non-white Swedish) folks. This includes Bosnian refugees, whom we would all see as fully “white” in America. Interestingly, though, despite being racialized as “other” in Sweden, their “partial” whiteness does provide them with some privilege, and they were typically the top of the heap in the ghetto in Sweden, but they were still in the ghetto at the end of the day and not “fully” white (like white Swedes).

After 4 weeks in Sweden, I was looking at white people differently, and implicitly categorizing them by where they came from, my mind adapting almost instinctively to local racial context. People who “looked” Southern and Eastern European began to stick out to me in ways they never did in America. I began to make distinctions of the white people who “looked Swedish” and those who did not, and especially those from Eastern and Southern Europe.

In Europe, xenoracism (which “others” all immigrants, but definitely takes on racial dimensions for people who cannot pass as the local dominant ethnic majority) and ethno-nationalism (which elevates things like a specifically “Slavic” identity and “look” in Russia, “Englishness” and Anglo features in England, etc.), creates a completely different landscape for race and conceptions of “partial” and “full” whiteness. 

I mean, what else explains the racist undertones of the derogatory term “PIGS, used for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, in mainstream media in the UK since the 90s, especially when we take a step back and think about how Southern Europeans have historically been deemed “Mediterranean,” “Iberic” and other terms to distinguish their whiteness from those of Northern and Western Europe. Cartoons like the below reinforce the implicit racialization of those countries and their peoples as subhuman, gluttonous, pigs:

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(Image description: cartoon of 4 pigs with the flags of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy gorging in a bed of coins with the words “ALL YOU CAN EAT” under it) 

What else explains the staunch opposition of many European countries to Turkey’s entrance into the EU (many Turkish people who would be racialized as “white” in much of America, although, if they are Muslim, that does complicate their whiteness somewhat) with explicitly racist and Islamophobic cartoons like this:

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(Image description: Cartoon of a chicken coup representing the “European Union” with white chickens on two branches with one saying “D-D-Don’t worry-he’ll melt right in.” And a much larger, dark chicken in the middle wearing a skullcap labeled “Islamic Hordes from Turkey”)

People on tumblr really need to decenter themselves from American geo-political context and not shut out the voices of people from other countries when discussions pertinent to those countries are occurring. 

Things I don’t have time for:

  1. White Americans saying shit like “OH, LIKE THIS POST SHOWS, SOME OF US ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST IN OTHER COUNTRIES, SO WE CAN’T HAVE PRIVILEGE.” Dipshit, you’re in America and are racialized as white here, while the “white” peoples who are discriminated against in certain European contexts are NOT racialized as white there.
  2. Tumblr folks flatly applying US conceptions of race, whiteness and privilege to the world, erasing the experiences of people like you and being totally ignorant, especially since antiblackness is not the fulcrum of white supremacy in much of Europe and the rest of the world. 
  3. Tumblr folks being called out on being US-centric and not giving a fuck, especially on posts relevant to Europe and other geographies.
  4. Just derailment overall. A discussion about race in America is centered there and should not have people clamoring to and pointing to this post and others derailing that discussion. A discussion about race and whiteness on a global scale or in specific non-American contexts should NOT be derailed by Americans with our typical myopic bullshit that does not include and acknowledge local racial context.

There is tremendous tribalism in Europe, and distinctions and hierarchies of whiteness do exist (e.g. Southern and Eastern Europeans being seen as “lower grade” whites in Northern and Western Europe) along with the outright racialization (as fully non white) of people from certain ethnic groups (e.g. Roma, Jews, Chechens) that include very fair individuals. These distinctions are important. The world does not revolve around America.

As I’ve said before:

I think many people forget that “whiteness” is an inherently fluid categorization of people that is only “fixed” somewhat on a temporal and inherently local level. Whiteness as we see it in America today, is not the way that it’s seen in Europe, Latin America, etc. even as we speak right now. 

And with that, I’m done, as I personally have no patience anymore for Americans on-and-off Tumblr who are willfully ignorant and refuse to decenter their US-centric perspective even when faced with evidence to the contrary. In American-specific discussions on tumblr, speaking up would be derailing and inappropriate (and cater to racist white Americans), but definitely do share your opinion in cases relevant to Europe and your local context.

Thanks for the ask,

BiA

(Source: owning-my-truth, via i-wakeupstrange)

justaguywitharrows:

skalja:

eatingclouds:

I’m a little uncomfortable with Tumblr’s (for lack of a better word) glamorization/glorification of communism

mostly bc it’s by people from countries completely unaffected by it

like, dude. My parents were obliged to graduate from Marxism and Leninism. And mandatorily vote for that one party

their earliest memories are of Russian tanks in every corner of the country

yknow. it can be a bit of a sore subject

I don’t want to get too personal on Tumblr, but both my parents (as well as my mother’s entire immediate family and a good number of her other relatives) were forced or fled from their home countries due to Communism, so I hear you. Everything turned out all right in the end, which makes us luckier than a few million other people, but the frivolity can be grating.

(On the flip side, both my parents roll their eyes whenever conservative Americans panic over the “socialist threat.” Oh noes, universal healthcare! Oppression!)

This is a whole thing.

So. There has never been a nation that had real communism. The Soviet Union? Not communism. China? Not communism. When people talk about those damn Ruski commies, they never existed. What did exist was an INCREDIBLY oppressive socialist, imperialist regime that colonized and erased the culture of dozens of nations and ethnic minorities, and murdered not only them but its own people. The Soviet Union ruined millions of lives and the only thing that was ever communist about it was that it called itself communist. 

So I want to talk about that a little bit because there are several things happening when we talk about “communism”. 

What I am DEFINITELY sick of is people comparing the west and the east to say that capitalist nations are better or more progressive than communist/socialist ones. The Soviet Union, The Republic of China, and Cuba are not Evil, they’re different and have  absolutely killed a lot of people— Stalin killed more people than any other person in history, I’ll be the first person to admit that and let me tell you about how that has irrevocably altered and traumatized Eastern European consciousness. But you know who else has killed millions of people? The United States. Let’s talk about U.S. imperialist wars or about how we incarcerate millions of black and latino people and funnel them into an endless cycle of crime and incarceration until it kills them. You want to talk about police states? Let’s talk about how you can get arrested for being black or for being trans or being a woman. (Don’t believe me? Google police discrimination in the United States or the One Condom rule in New York.) 

You know what we call ignoring what the West does in order to point fingers at the East? Orientalism. Don’t be talking about the shit other countries pull to prop yourself up unless you’re willing to confront in excruciating details and frankness all of the shit YOUR country pulls. To be quite frank, I’ve never met a single person from the Western world that has ever tried to glorify what the Soviet Union and China have done. In fact, every person I’ve ever spoken to here has talked about oppressive and horrible they are with an implicit comparison to the U.S., pointing to how much better it is here. 

To which I say: Go fuck yourself. All we have in the U.S. is a better veneer of freedom. (That is not aimed directly at OP and more of a general statement about conversations about Eastern Eurasia and the Global South.)

So, moving along to my final point:

I would argue that OP is ultimately incorrect. Like I said: real communism? Has very little to do with “communist” nations. They’ve never existed. We’ve never had communism on a large scale. Communism as an alternative social model for radical political resistance is an AWESOME model (I won’t get into the feasibility of large-scale implementation right now) and many of the people— often radical queers and/or PoC— who identify as communist or who are in favor of a communist model are very deliberate and conscious about what they mean when they say communist. It’s totally uninformed to conflate our world’s past history of non-communism with people who are genuinely fighting for equality and social change and stand for anti-oppression. 

Look, it’s not that what any of what you’re saying is wrong, but “correct in the abstract” is not the same thing as “contextually relevant or appropriate.”

It’s great that you can have these meaningful conversations about communist philosophy with other activists and radical thinkers. I mean that with all sincerity. But that has next to nothing to do with the discussion eatingclouds and I were actually having, about our experiences growing up in the slowly-dissipating shadow of (so-called, yes) communist regimes, and how that shapes our discomfort with flippant jokes about communism on Tumblr (and, my addition, my and my parents’ irritation with knee-jerk US conservative paranoia).

No, we didn’t strictly define our terms, but that’s because this was a casual, non-academic conversation between friends who share enough context that strict definitions aren’t required to understand each other. (I will also add that eatingclouds is Czech, not American; lives in the Czech Republic, and — correct me if I’m wrong! — English isn’t her first language.)

You haven’t educated myself or eatingclouds about anything we didn’t already know. What you’ve actually done is:

- barged into a casual conversation
- derailed it into a springboard to talk about your own concerns and viewpoint, completely changing the topic in the process
- jumped to conclusions about the cultural context of the previous speakers
- ‘splained Stalinism and how it “irrevocably altered and traumatized Eastern European consciousness” … to an Eastern European and an American of immediate Eastern European descent. (The other half is Vietnamese, by the way. Why, yes, I am familiar with the concept of Orientalism…)
- castigated us for not using our academic jargon precisely in a non-academic conversation
- used your own lived experience to deny those of others despite the minimal relevance your experience has to the pre-existing conversation
- chided the OP for being so “uninformed” as to dismiss the work and philosophy of people she wasn’t talking about in the first place.

And then, cherry on the cake, you followed with another text post talking about what  a “pet peeve” it is of yours when people make “uninformed statements” or draw “uninformed conclusions.”

It takes some gall to totally co-opt a discussion and then condescend to the original speakers for not talking about what you want to talk about in the way you want to talk about it.

We’ve known each other casually for a while, and I know you’re not a bad guy, but if you’re going to criticize American imperialism, I’m going to suggest that you take a look at your own behavior and consider the extent to which US-centric assumptions shaped the way you responded to eatingclouds’ and my posts.

(For the record: I asked and received eatingclouds’ permission to engage before writing this reply. All of the above is my own opinion, and she’s more than welcome to add, correct, or contradict anything I’ve said if her take differs from mine, particularly since I, too, have American/Western privilege, even if my background means I sometimes deal with its flipside. Other than that, I’ve said my piece.)

(via missivesfromghosts)

63 notes

Entitled: If media covered America the way we cover foreign cultures

jahanzebjz:

Yet another massacre has occurred in the historically war-torn region of the Southern United States – and so soon after the religious festival of Easter.

Brian McConkey, 27, a Christian fundamentalist militiaman living in the formerly occupied territory of Alabama, gunned down three men from an opposing tribe in the village square near Mobile, the capitol, over a discussion that may have involved the rituals of the local football cult. In this region full of heavily-armed local warlords and radical Christian clerics, gun violence is part of the life of many.

Many of the militiamen here are ethnic Scots-Irish tribesmen, a famously indomitable mountain people who have killed civilized men – and each other – for centuries. It appears that the wars that started on the fields of Bannockburn and Sterling have come to America.

As the sun sets over the former Confederate States of America, one wonders – can peace ever come to this land?

(Source: ericgarland.co, via crossedwires)

fotojournalismus:

Some Vietnamese Children Still Live with Agent Orange Problem

(via)

The United States began a landmark project on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012 to clean up a dangerous chemical left from the defoliant Agent Orange — 50 years after American planes first sprayed it on Vietnam’s jungles to destroy enemy cover. Dioxin, which has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, is the dangerous chemical left from the defoliant Agent Orange.

The U.S. military dumped some 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of Agent Orange and other herbicides on about a quarter of former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971, decimating about 5 million acres (2 million hectares) of forest — roughly the size of Massachusetts.

The Agent Orange issue has continued to blight the U.S.-Vietnam relationship because dioxin can linger in the environment for decades, entering the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals.

It is still unclear how much dioxin the U.S. will help clean up in the long term and how much it will allocate for people who claim to be Agent Orange victims.

Photos (Aug. 7-8, 2012) : 

1. Vo Thi Thuy Nga, 24, left, and her uncle Vo Duoc sit inside their home in Danang, Vietnam. She was born with physical and mental disabilities that a rehabilitation center’s director said were caused by their parents’ exposure to the chemical dioxin in the defoliant Agent Orange.

2. Chu Thanh Nhan, 12, sits in an empty classroom at a rehabilitation center in Danang, Vietnam.

3. Dang Cong Chinh, center, plays with other children at a rehabilitation center in Danang, Vietnam.

4. Le Trung Hong Phuc, 9, plays with colored blocks at a rehabilitation center in Danang, Vietnam. The children were born with physical and mental disabilities that the center’s director says were caused by their parents’ exposure to the chemical dioxin in the defoliant Agent Orange.

[Credit : Maika Elan / AP]

(via jillianomicon)

484 notes

"It’s a well-worn ritual - the expression of outrage and “shock”, as President Obama put it. The “condolences to the families” offered by senior leaders of the occupying power to the latest victims of their supposedly benign occupation. […] We will urge calm and investigate - just like we’re investigating the burning of Qurans, urinating on dead fighters and mutilating dead children, and all the other insults and injuries upon Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis and other benighted peoples. Those responsible for the deaths will face justice, or whatever we say is justice, unless of course a military court somehow determines justice to be something else than we told you it would be, in which case that is just another example of how fair our system of jurisprudence is."

Mark Levine’s op-ed for Al Jazeera English on imperial hypocrisy is so true, it actually stings. Recommended.

Of course the action in question - which is always the latest in a whole series of actions, with the previous ones conveniently forgotten by the time the next one happens - can “not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that [we have] for the people of Afghanistan”. “We” don’t do that. That’s what “they” - the people whom we have occupied/sent soldiers into Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan/Yemen/ to destroy - do. They are the barbarians who hate us because of “our values”, as President Bush so eloquently put it.

(via mehreenkasana)

(via heliotropo)

indianajosh:




In honor of International Women’s Day, I’d like to highlight Rigoberta Menchú Tum, an indigenous Guatemalan woman who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992 for raising awareness of the genocide in Guatemala and helping Guatemalans (especially indigenous Mayans) to defend themselves.
It’s important to point out that according to the United Nations’ Historical Clarifications Committee, the United States and several U.S. corporations (most notably United Fruit and Coca-Cola) were complicit in the killings of over 200,000 native Guatemalans. U.S. agencies were found to have lent direct financial support to the state-sponsored killings, as well as arms support and training.In the mid-1950’s, both United Fruit and Coca Cola pressured the U.S. government to stage a ClA-directed coup that overthrew President Jacobo Arbenz. This action put an end to the first democratically elected president in Guatemalan history and set in motion the civil war that followed.
Despite the rhetoric, not everything that the U.S. does abroad is in the efforts of promoting peace, freedom, and democracy. It is our responsibility to criticize the things we most cherish, including and especially our government, in order to first: recognize the darker moments of our history for what they were (and are, as discourses), second: demand that we justify the things we do, and third (thank you, Luis): amend our wrongs.

indianajosh:

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’d like to highlight Rigoberta Menchú Tum, an indigenous Guatemalan woman who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992 for raising awareness of the genocide in Guatemala and helping Guatemalans (especially indigenous Mayans) to defend themselves.

It’s important to point out that according to the United Nations’ Historical Clarifications Committee, the United States and several U.S. corporations (most notably United Fruit and Coca-Cola) were complicit in the killings of over 200,000 native Guatemalans. U.S. agencies were found to have lent direct financial support to the state-sponsored killings, as well as arms support and training.

In the mid-1950’s, both United Fruit and Coca Cola pressured the U.S. government to stage a ClA-directed coup that overthrew President Jacobo Arbenz. This action put an end to the first democratically elected president in Guatemalan history and set in motion the civil war that followed.

Despite the rhetoric, not everything that the U.S. does abroad is in the efforts of promoting peace, freedom, and democracy. It is our responsibility to criticize the things we most cherish, including and especially our government, in order to first: recognize the darker moments of our history for what they were (and are, as discourses), second: demand that we justify the things we do, and third (thank you, Luis): amend our wrongs.

(via threshermaw-deactivated20120804)

"I find it slightly ethnocentric that whenever Japanese appropriate some aspect of Euro-American body aesthetics, foreigners assume that it reflects their burning desire to become something other than Japanese, but when Americans, for instance, borrow things like nose piercing or dreadlocks from other cultures, it is seen as evidence of their creativeness and tolerance."

Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics (via homoarigato)

(Source: queerthanks, via latkje)

tanglad:

The pic above shows a question from the formal test for applicants for US citizenship: “Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.”  The brutal Philippine-American War (1899-1902), in which one million Filipinos perished in what historian Stanley Karnow describes as “among the cruelest conflicts in the annals of Western imperialism,” is not in the list of acceptable answers.
I do not know if US students ever learn of the Philippine-American War. New citizens, including Filipino Americans, are certainly expected to forget this war. Part of the systematic forgetting of the conquests, massacres, and genocides on which this country continues to rest.

tanglad:

The pic above shows a question from the formal test for applicants for US citizenship: “Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.”  The brutal Philippine-American War (1899-1902), in which one million Filipinos perished in what historian Stanley Karnow describes as “among the cruelest conflicts in the annals of Western imperialism,” is not in the list of acceptable answers.

I do not know if US students ever learn of the Philippine-American War. New citizens, including Filipino Americans, are certainly expected to forget this war. Part of the systematic forgetting of the conquests, massacres, and genocides on which this country continues to rest.

(via gorgons)

crossedwires:

wildunicornherd:

Aliette de Bodard » On the prevalence of US tropes in storytelling

In short, I’m tired of being invaded by US culture. I’m tired of US tropes being cited as the norm (even when it’s obvious that the rest of the world doesn’t follow such tropes), of bookshelves featuring translations from US writers and movies following standard Hollywood fare–of the one-way street which means the US sets the tune for the rest of the world, and that anything that looks remotely worthy from non-US countries is given a local remake for those who can’t stand to watch dubbed or subtitled movies (guess what–we watch dubbed/subtitled US movies all the time in France). I’m tired of the way US culture and tropes have so pervaded popular culture that we no longer even question them, or even recognise them–and, worse, that people outside the US are actively aping them in search of the so-called “universal stories”.

*massive standing ovation* Do read the whole thing, it’s wonderful, and she goes into great detail. From a French perspective but will strike a chord with anyone outside the U. S. (says this Canadian who has inherited deep resentment for U. S. cultural imperialism).

I did get tripped up by

just like not all French books feature, say, bumbling bosses or people going on strike

…We’re not allowed to have stories about people going on strike! :P

Yes. Also, this is relevant to my fandoms (esp superhero movies):

I’m tired of plots that value individualism and egotism above all else; of heroes that always have to be the masters of their own fates, to be active and not take anything that life deals at them lying down (whereas most of the time, we lie down, we accept, we deal with what we have been given); of heroes that have to be strong and only take marginal help from others to solve their own problems; of heroes that have a destiny, and of movies and books in which breaking up with all traditions is good so long as one finds and follow one’s own path (there are a lot of cultures where breaking up with traditions isn’t necessarily a good thing, and no, this doesn’t mean that they’re evil and backward). I’m tired of how genre(s) put(s) a disproportionate value on heroes who are active and not passive (and, by extension, belittles and dismisses every use of passive voice, and always asks for sentences to be frenetically punchy); of how the most important thing that can happen to a person is to be “given their own story”, as stories weren’t made up of a mosaic of people all interacting together; of how teams exist only either as a background and foil for a single hero, or as a compendium of individuals, each fighting to be outdo each other in stupid displays of heroism (yes, X-men, I’m looking at you).

(via alliterate-deactivated20120901)

"

I thought about this when I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music” and was consequently disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.


What struck me was this: she had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa, a single story of catastrophe. In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.

[…] I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called American Psycho and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers.

Now— now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation, but it would never have occurred to me to think that just because I had read a novel in which a character was a serial killer, that somehow he was representative of all Americans. Now, this is not because I am a better person than that student, but because of America’s cultural and economic power, I had many stories of America. I had read Tyler and Updike and Steinbeck and Gaitskill. I did not have a single story of America.

"

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story (via alliterate)

(via wundy-deactivated20120102-deact)