nanila: (me: walk softly and carry big stick)
( Jun. 13th, 2017 02:01 pm)
I had wanted to post this yesterday, as it was the 50th anniversary, but ran out of time. So, a day late, but no less important: Here is my very personal celebration of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, handed down on 12 June 1967, that legalised interracial marriage in the USA.

Without it, my parents might have been jailed or permanently separated. Without it, I might not exist. I am grateful that what was just and correct prevailed in the face of popular opinion.

[Image of my dad, baby!me and my mom, with one of my aunties in the pool at a Honolulu hotel. Photo taken by my maternal grandfather.]

+1 )
This is not a review.

[This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: Rogue One. Do not click the cut if you haven’t watched the film and are sensitive to spoilers.]

I saw Rogue One last week and I'm still dealing with the emotional fallout.

Actually, before I get into this: If you think the film was terrible, want to pick apart plot points, lecture me about how the story isn't deep or meaningful, argue that a having female lead is a pointless gesture in the direction of political correctness, tell me I’m not a “real” fan, or claim that casting a significant proportion of characters of colour is tokenism or that representation doesn’t matter, I have a request. Please, hold your tongue. This post is not for you.

Because the film drew me in completely. Not just because it was, in many ways, the Star Wars film I always wanted. The Force Awakens was good, centering the female lead, providing a nuanced character of colour, connecting beautifully with the characters in the original films (Episodes IV-VI). Rogue One does those things too but I got involved with this story on the level I used to when I was a kid and I'd lose myself completely in a narrative, to the point where I'd have visceral nightmares about it (as I am with Rogue One). This story felt true.

Here be spoilers. )
Sorry to hit you with depressing posts about racism twice in a row, but I need to get this off my chest. I will do an Unscientific Poll later, I promise.

CN: Details of a threatening incident which occurred last Friday. )

I'm disabling comments on this entry because I can't deal with anyone else's feelings about this right now. I will, especially, have no patience with anyone telling me that everything's going to be fine in the next few months. It's absolutely not fine. None of this is fine. It's going to be awful. The agonisingly slow economic recovery we were experiencing before 23 June, which gave a glimmer of hope that austerity might be eased in the coming months, is completely gone. Austerity is at the root of much of the discontent that drove the referendum vote, and it is going to stay with us, and it will get worse. And so will the racism and the xenophobia.

My message to Virgin Trains Customer Relations:
I was on the [HH:MM] on Thursday, 7 July 2016, from London Euston to Birmingham New Street. I had booked Seat [XX] in Quiet Coach [Y]. Just above my seat on the Quiet Coach sign, someone had written "BNP". Someone else had tried unsuccessfully to scratch it out, but the graffiti, as shown in the attached photo, was still clearly visible.

As a mixed-race British citizen, I found this unsettling. I did not particularly enjoy sitting underneath a blatant piece of unimaginative racist propaganda for the entirety of my journey. Would it be possible for the sign in the coach of that train to be replaced? I presume there is a way of identifying which train was running that route at that time?
Thank you,
Last week* on my London evening I went to BBC Broadcasting House with one of my work colleagues, because I had tickets to a recording of The Museum of Curiosity. The idea behind this radio show is that three eminent guests donate exhibits to the imaginary museum after being interviewed by host John Lloyd and the curator. The curator position rotates between comedians. At the time of this recording, it was Noel Fielding. Phil Jupitus and Sarah Millican have previously curated. The guests on this occasion were another comedian, a composer and an architect.

The show seems to make an effort to have at least one woman as an eminent guest, which is rather nice. Unfortunately, I found the one female guest - the architect - actively cringe-making.

She was the last one of the three guests to be interviewed. It turned out that she had originally trained as a medic and practised for a short while as a GP. Then she went to India to spend a month in a leper** colony on an island, and it was there that she determined that she needed to completely change her career and become an "experimental architect". So she could revolutionise the way Western people live, because all our buildings are "dead" and we're locked into worship of machines and we need to learn from people who can make amazing things out of sticks and shit because they've got nothing else, or something. I don't know. Anyway, she actually didn't say the words, "Desperately poor and ill brown people are, like, so inspiring." Make no mistake, though, that was exactly what she meant. I didn't stand up and scream your racism is unintentional but it is not benign, but believe me, it took every ounce of my strength not to. Instead, I withheld my applause when she concluded. I also left a sardonic review of the event in the survey I was e-mailed after the recording, mentioning that they might want to make an effort to vett their guests for offensively colonial 19th century views.

Sometimes I think I've assimilated into British culture a bit too well.

* I've been wanting to post about this since that evening but every time I sat down to do it, nothing but a stream of incoherent rage would come out. So please don't make the mistake of thinking that, because the tone in this is pretty level, that I'm not still very bloody angry about it.
** I did glean some small amusement when one of the other guests - the composer - gently rebuked her afterward for referring to it as leprosy instead of Hansen's disease.
Our constituency's UKIP candidate canvassed my doorstep today. Too late, I remembered I had a full watering can in my hand. Opportunity: missed.

Although I was like, "I'm a non-white non-EEA* immigrant. You're done here, bye!"

* European Economic Area

Armando Iannucci, creator of such brilliant pieces of satire as The Thick of It and Veep, reminds us that this election is wide open. So if you haven't registered to vote yet, please do it today (20 April 2015) because it's the deadline. Remember, you don't need your National Insurance number to do so (explained here).
The conversation with the taxi driver began innocuously enough. We chatted about the nice weather. He said he hoped it would continue as he was going on holiday in a couple of weeks. I replied that we were as well, to Turkey, for the first time. He said he loved Turkey because of the food and the hot weather and the people and how he’d thought about moving there but --

“They’re really strict on immigration laws.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Well, you can’t just move there and get a job. You have to prove that you’re not taking a job from a Turkish person. So if you want to open a restaurant, you can be the owner, but you have to train and employ all Turkish people. You can go around and greet customers, shake hands, be seen, but you can’t cook or wait tables or even be seen sweeping up after it shuts or they’ll close you down. I completely agree with that idea because it means the jobs created all go to the Turkish locals.”

I considered my reply carefully. “That’s how the visa system works here, too, for non-EEA* migrants.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. When I got my first job here, my employers had to prove that they couldn’t find a British candidate with my skills in order to obtain a visa**.”

“I didn’t know they bothered with that.”

“Yes, they do. It’s not easy to get a visa even if you have highly specialised skills like mine.”

“Well, I think Turkey have got it right. Everyone should have to do that no matter where they’re from. We don’t need more people doing stuff like going over to Spain to work part-time in a bar. We have enough people to do all the unskilled jobs here.”

Thankfully we arrived at my destination before the seemingly inevitable “and that’s why I’m voting UKIP”. /o\

* European Economic Area. Americans are non-EEA migrants, although most British people seem to think that "non-EEA migrant" == "asylum seeker". Oh and by the way the immigration system is just as draconian for asylum seekers as it is for other non-EEA migrants.
** Tier 2. It is now even more difficult to obtain a Tier 2 visa even through an employer like mine, a top-ranked academic research institution. More and more positions, even post-doctoral ones, are advertised with the proviso that applicants must already have the right to work in the UK.
As usual, I’m more than a year behind the curve when it comes to viewing films. First of all, let me state that I enjoyed this one very much. I liked that it was a nuanced mother-daughter story. I found Maleficent’s shifts in character (mostly) believable. I cried over the revelation of the meaning of “true love’s kiss”, even though it was blindingly obvious what was going to happen. It’s visually beautiful, and I will certainly re-watch it many times - though probably not until Humuhumu and Keiki are a bit older.

Still, there were things that bothered me.

  • Racefail: Rant 1: The fairies - the good, happy, sunny, nature-loving, communist fairies - all have RP English accents. I imagine this is at least partly because Ms Jolie does best role-playing an RP accent, as she did in the Tomb Raider films. But then the film-makers decided to give the humans - the greedy, vain, grabby, grubby, feudal humans - Scottish accents.

    And then the one human who ends up proving to be the unifying element between the races is the one raised by the (English) fairies. Who, of course, doesn’t have a Scottish accent.

    Nice job there, film-makers, for (possibly unconsciously) enforcing and even glorifying the English colonialist perspective. You’d think Americans would know better, given all that business in 1776. Especially since there is plenty of evidence about that it is still entirely possible for people to oppress one another for racial, religious and socioeconomic reasons, even if they’re not officially doing it under the mandate of colonialism. Er.

  • Racefail: Rant 2: The one (visibly) black actor with speaking lines is pretty much just there to get smacked in the face by the human king. Er.

  • The Ending: Rant 1: The fairies - the good, happy, sunny, nature-loving, communist fairies - start off by having a lovely society in which everyone gets along by cooperating and sharing resources. They have no rulers. Maleficent, though she is powerful, pointedly requests the assistance of her peers when facing an outside threat.

    Then after getting a massive bee in her bonnet over the wing-stealing business, which is fair enough, she suddenly decides to set herself up as queen. An ill-tempered, capricious and dictatorial queen.

    Okay, in the end she has a change of heart and all is wonderful and beautiful again and she hops gladly off her throne. And instead of going back to their peaceful, delightful, communist society, the fairies decide, “You know what I miss about that period of darkness and fear? Having a queen! So let’s appoint this teenage human - humans have a wonderful history of tolerance and peaceful accord - that we hardly know into that capacity. What a great idea.”

    I mean...What?! Why not just declare peace between the two realms? There was no need to introduce a completely different and obviously flawed system of monarchical governance into the one that got along fine without it for centuries before that. And again, wtf @ Americans. Er.

  • The Ending: Rant 2: Diaval. Am I mistaken, or did Maleficent set him up a little with that whole I-saved-your-life business? And then use him as a slave? And then at the end, he’s standing next to her, looking like he’s now her equal and after that flying around joyfully, looking like a partner and friend? Because that really bugs me.

    Yes, most American films err on the side of spelling out far too many things that don’t need to be. But in this case, I think we could have done with some explicit statements. Specifically, Maleficent releasing him from his obligations, which it appears she obtained on false pretenses and oh, I don’t know, at least verbally apologising for robbing him of his autonomy for a mere sixteen years. He deserved a little more compensation than, “If I take off the hair-shirt and step off this self-appointed throne, you’ll forgive me and we can have a normal relationship, yes? Yes. Good.” Er.

I know that most of these complaints can be easily dismissed if one takes the view that, for all the improvement in gender dynamics on the original Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, it’s still a Disney film. But I think it’s worth considering the places where it could easily have been done better (casting a more diverse set of actors), and where problematic elements were unnecessarily introduced (the rest of the above list).
nanila: (manning: uberbitch)
( Nov. 9th, 2014 08:06 pm)
A thing happened recently that I didn't feel comfortable addressing directly with the person involved, so it's turned into a journal post.

Someone felt the need to go on a diatribe to me about how it's a travesty that Americans continue to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday built on what can mildly be described as false premises.

Every year I post a picture to Facebook of Wednesday Addams holding a match and delivering the following speech about Thanksgiving.

You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides. You will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller."...And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.

Despite this, every year, I make an effort to celebrate Thanksgiving. Since I've had the space to do so, I've invited as many people as I can cater for to my home and fed them, at the very least, on pumpkin pie and wine. Because I also believe that despite its hugely problematic origins, the saccharine mythology of which continues to be propagated in American schools, it is possibly one of the nicest American traditions in the way it is actually practiced. I have on many occasions not been able to be with my own family on Thanksgiving, including the entirety of the last decade. Yet because of the generosity of friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances, I have never felt alone or unloved on this holiday. When most Americans hear that you haven't got anywhere to be on Thanksgiving, they will immediately invite you to their own celebration, even if they don't know you well, and the invitation will be sincere. You don't have to take it if you don't want to. But the option is always there - to be fed a nice meal, in company of people in good spirits, which in my world is one of the best things you can ever do for others.

I know the origin stories of America, especially as taught to young Americans, are full of inconsistencies and glaring omissions. I know that Americans have, to put it mildly, not always behaved well as colonists. If I were to get romantic about it, I could argue that I embody the conflict between colonial and colonised interests from the cultural right down to the genetic level, given my parents' national and racial origins.

I also know that in choosing to become British, I have taken on the mantle of possibly the most notorious of the modern colonialist oppressors. And I know that in choosing to emigrate permanently, I have given up on participation in a large portion of the culture I was brought up in. I spend 99% of my time immersed in British culture. My partner is British. My children will grow up predominantly British.

So. I get angry when someone feels the need to tell me that, of the 1% of my time that I choose deliberately to celebrate something that is American, I shouldn't be doing it. Perhaps, O White English Person, the next time you feel the need to dress someone down for clinging to a tiny portion of the culture in which they grew up, you should consider that you are possibly not the most appropriate mouthpiece of justice.
I have a little anecdote from yesterday that I feel nicely illustrates that racism isn't just for foaming bigots with shaven heads and small intellects. It isn't always obviously easy to disparage and avoid engaging in yourself.

I hopped onto a packed train headed to Birmingham from London. Well, I say "hopped". It was more like, "dove through through the doors being held dangerously open for me and three others by a platform attendant four seconds before it departed". The three other people started walking down the train carriages in front of me, looking for spare seats. The first person found a seat at the end of the first carriage. We went through three more carriages before encountering another that appeared empty.*

The two people in front of me went straight past it.

I stopped and asked the three men sitting quietly next to the unoccupied seat, "Excuse me, is anyone sat there?" They looked at me. (They looked surprised.) "No," one of them replied, "it's free. Take it."

This becomes a story about racism when you learn that the two people in front of me were white and the three men sitting around the empty seat were black.

I was reminded of a scene at the opening of the film Higher Learning.** It lasts about thirty seconds but it's burned onto my memory and I only saw the film once when it came out nearly twenty years ago. A young white woman gets into a lift with one other occupant. The other occupant is a young black man, also a student, who regards her with friendly curiosity, ready to say hello. She presses the button for her floor without looking at him, then stands in the opposite corner of the lift. As the doors close, she clutches her handbag to her a little more tightly, still not looking at him. He sees this and shakes his head, smiling sadly.

Racism can be subtle. It's ingrained in our subconscious and enforced by influences that we don't necessarily recognise. Those two people in front of me probably would have been horrified if confronted and asked, "Did you deliberately avoid that seat because it was surrounded by three black men?" It's hard to correct yourself for prejudice, I realise that. It falls on the person feeling the effects to point them out to you, which is damnably difficult, and for you to be strong enough to apologise, simply and succinctly, if required, and incorporate your new awareness into your future interactions. But we must try.***

* Please note also that this seat was nowhere near a smelly toilet or a person listening to loud music. Nor did it appear to have anything else wrong with it.
** I can recall very little else about the film, so can't recommend or discourage viewing.
*** I do not agree with Yoda in this instance.