Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

What if Spiderman Weren’t White?

There’s a Facebook group trying to cast Donald Glover as the new Spiderman.

Interesting proposition: is it essential that the next incarnation of Peter Parker/Spidey be white? It would be mildly subversive–and a shock to mainstream audiences, I think–to cast a person of color in this role. Under all that skintight superhero wear, it would be great to see a dark-skinned face as the superhero.

Glover himself is a fine actor and comedian. I’ve blogged about Glover and his hilariousness in the past; he’s done hilarious work in Community.

Hey, if it worked for Betty White on Saturday Night Live

Filed under: comedy, entertainment, race, , , , , , , ,

Where Are All the Black Teabaggers?

A stupid question, but worth asking: Are there any members of the Teabag party who are also people of color? I’ve tried to find images of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, or Native Americans to no avail. The right’s extremely popular wingnuts don’t seem to have a place at the table for non-whites. What’s up with that?

Bob Cesca wrote a fantastic deconstruction of what I’ve sensed–but lacked the directness to state: the Teabag Party is racist. What’s his evidence, you ask?

This isn’t an epiphany by any stretch. From the beginning, with their witch doctor imagery, watermelon agitprop and Curious George effigies, the wingnut right has been dying to blurt out, as Lee Atwater famously said, “nigger, nigger, nigger!”

Take a look at the image above, of the boy holding a white protest sign. It reads “Obamanomics: Monkey See, Monkey Spend!” The cartoon image of a monkey’s face correlates with the text of “Obamanomics”. Does this young person see no problem in comparing a black man to a monkey? The historical implications of the savage, of an ignoble beast rather than a human being, possessing the capacity for reason, for logic, for an intelligence higher than the animals of the earth, is undeniable.

How often do we find images comparing white folks to monkeys? In contrast, how often are African Americans caricatured as monkeys?

The baggage of racism has been going on for the last two hundred years. It seems the Teabag party may just be a product of cultural hegemony, useful for those who want to maintain racial hierarchy. Perhaps the Teabaggers might garner more respect if their messages were rooted in concrete arguments rather than racist iconography.

But maybe it’s better to just let the Teabaggers speak for themselves (weekend roundup compiled by Mediamatters.org):

Filed under: race, racism, , , , , , , , ,

Adoption and Race: The Elephant in the Room

Martha Nichols deliberates  the perils and challenges in adopting a child of a different race in an excellent feature on Salon.com. Haitian children, of course, are in dire need of loving homes. But the obvious challenges facing these children in a non-color-blind world leaves Nichols–herself an adoptive mother–with concerns over the media’s avoidance of issues of race.

It’s a subject that has been on my mind recently with the success of movies like The Blind Side, in which a white Texan family adopts a black teenage football player. Ostensibly, a heartwarming movie about a family adopting a teenager in need. But how can anyone avoid the racial implications of the white family saving the black child?

Nichols states the issue directly:

Why is the white-savior storyline so entrenched? And why is it so hard for the “objective” journalistic voice to talk about race?

Perhaps because an open dialogue, mindful of the legacy of white colonialism, of polite conversation rather than tough questions, of the persistent, oftentimes subtle instances of institutionalized racism, isn’t what Americans want. We want uplifting stories of rescue, adoption, and reconciliation.

We don’t want to acknowledge that interracial adoptions may have a negative impact, both for the adoptees and families, but also in the context of reinforcing stereotypes of the “white savior” as identified by Nichols.

It’s not that all news outlets avoid the issue of race. In the mainstream media, however, dialogue is often polemic at best, left to alternative or scholarly outlets at worst (as in this article from the alt-weekly Illinois Times, providing facts on the different costs to adopt children of different races. The impact of major newspapers and broadcast networks can’t be discounted; when the Boston Globe trumpets headlines like “Joy, Frustration Brought Home” without a balanced coverage of adoptive issues, images of rosy blitheness, of those who rescue and those who are rescued, is subtly conveyed.

As I was traveling through Uganda in January, I’d often be stopped in my tracks by African children with straight-forward questions like: Why are Americans so rich? Africans so poor? How can I build self-confidence? The directness, the sincerity, of the Ugandan children that I met often surprised me. Not only because I rarely felt that I had an adequate response, but also because the depth of the question asked was not a level of inquiry in the American public domain.

What’s said and what’s lost. It’s a conundrum.

Filed under: family, media, race, , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
July 2020
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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