“So you’re at work one day and you’re talking to your colleagues in that professional, polite, kind of buttoned-up voice that people use when they’re doing professional work stuff.
Your mom or your friend or your partner calls on the phone and you answer. And without thinking, you start talking to them in an entirely different voice — still distinctly your voice, but a certain kind of your voice less suited for the office. You drop the g’s at the end of your verbs. Your previously undetectable accent — your easy Southern drawl or your sing-songy Caribbean lilt or your Spanish-inflected vowels or your New Yawker — is suddenly turned way, way up. You rush your mom or whomever off the phone in some less formal syntax (“Yo, I’mma holler at you later,”), hang up and get back to work.”
And congrats to friend of the R Gene Demby for being a part of this great NPR project!
Everyone asks me about my “long distance relationship.” You see, my husband (and my partner for 8 years) lives in Texas. I, however, live in New York. I used to live in Texas, but had to move for graduate studies. We are both immigrants and have applied for green cards (he was lucky enough to receive sponsorship from his employer). Because we are both immigrants, our visas dictate where we can stay, what we can do. Until further notice, he will continue to live in Texas and I will continue to live in New York.
Everyone asks me about my “long distance relationship.” How do I do it? Don’t I miss him? They don’t get it. They say they would never be able to do it and hint that they doubt the authenticity of our relationship.
But here’s the thing they don’t understand. We’re immigrants. We have “long-distance” relationships with everyone. Even our own selves.
My first “long-distance” relationship began a decade ago when I left India to come to the United States. I had lived in the same house as my parents for seventeen years and now all of a sudden, my relationship with my parents was “long-distance.” My relationship with my sister, all of my friends also became “long-distance.”
Of course, I made new friends in Texas. And then, like immigrants do, I moved. They moved. More long-distance relationships. It’s even hard to find love in these scenarios. What do you do if you move? If the other person moves? You can’t move. Your visa says you cannot move. You hope that your heart will fall for a citizen, but when it is someone else with a visa just like yours, you know you’re screwed.
Then there is the long-distance relationship I have with the part of me I left back in India. The long-distance relationship I have with India, with this idea of “home” that never will be home.
Sometimes I feel like I have a long-distance relationship with everyone. I am an immigrant after all, and like someone once said, I carry the border within me in my heart. I am often neither of here nor there, so even when I’m with someone, I might be far far away.
I try not to pity myself. I am one of the lucky ones. My partner and I might get green cards. We’re doing ok financially. We will move around a little more and then figure out a way to be together. It’s inevitable. We will be together.
But, think of the mother who crosses the border or the ocean leaving behind her two-year-old knowing that she might never see her again, but then maybe manages to bring her anyway ten, fifteen years later. Long-distance love.
Think of the woman who sponsors her parents and waits in line for years, hoping that one day she would be able to take care of them in their old ages as they did when she was young. Long-distance love.
Think of the man who sponsors his wife across the world and waits for their number to come, maintaining their love through skype chats and endless phone cards. Long-distance love.
And let’s not forget those who cannot use their marriage or their love or their relationships to apply for visas or green cards. Think of the woman who loves another woman and, for whom, Immigration has no answer, no matter how delayed.
We’re immigrants. After a while, we get used to that endless longing in our hearts - for another world, for a home, for that loved one. We wait. And our love is resilient.
A post to contemplate on International Women’s Day.
Hip-hop music is frequently described as violent and anti-law enforcement, with the implication that its artists glorify criminality. A new content analysis subtitled “Hip-Hop Artists’ Perceptions of Criminal Justice“, by criminologists Kevin Steinmetz and Howard Henderson, challenge this conclusion.
After an analysis of a random sample of hip-hop songs released on platinum-selling albums between 2000 and 2010, Steinmetz and Henderson concluded that the main law enforcement-related themes in hip-hop are not pleasure and pride in aggressive and criminal acts, but the unfairness of the criminal justice system and the powerlessness felt by those targeted by it.
Lyrics about law enforcement, for example, frequently portrayed cops as predators exercising an illegitimate power. Imprisonment, likewise, was blamed for weakening familial and community relationships and described a modern method of oppression.
Their analysis refutes the idea that hip-hop performers are embracing negative stereotypes of African American men in order to sell albums. Instead, it suggests that the genre retains the politicized messages that it was born with.
In 2007, I moved to San Francisco from Stockton – a place once named the most miserable city in Forbes, a place where empty storefronts and people hanging out in front of liquor stores are fairly familiar scenes. I attended the journalism program at SFSU and lived in the Sunset, but was immediately drawn to the Fillmore. I eventually started covering and writing stories about the Fillmore for my reporting class. While I researched the area’s rich history – including the disastrous urban renewal program, which pushed out many of the city’s African Americans in the 1940s through the 1970s – I began to understand why there aren’t many of us in San Francisco’s historically black neighborhood. Partly it’s because there just aren’t many black people here in the city these days (according to the 2010 census, African Americans make up 5.8 percent of SF).
It wasn’t until I graduated college that I realized that while I was writing about black businesses and black people, all my friends were white. This wasn’t a brand new concept to me. I spent my days in high school listening to indie rock and punk music. In Stockton, I was used to being the only black person at rock shows, and I was one of only two black girls in my graduating high school class. The racism I experienced in my hometown, while sparse, was overt and by strangers. But there was something different going on here in SF. Partying with the hipster white dudes in the Mission would start out fun, but our hangouts would end with me feeling conflicted. If these people were my friends, why did I feel so bad when I hung out with them?
Before all the hate mail rolls in, I’m not saying that San Francisco is racist and my experiences with assholes in the Mission can’t possibly be a statement about this city as a whole. That deserves a larger article. However, in this city that prides itself in being so progressive, it feels like we need to go back and master something both simple as well as incredibly complex – each other. We can learn to embrace our differences without making them a joke or a spectacle. It might take more effort than making bourbon ice cream, but I feel like we can do it.
At the Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Victoria Ortega, 33, focuses on women’s health, HIV prevention, beautification, and safety. As a transgender woman and community organizer, she actively incorporates LGBTQ issues into her community-building in the neighborhood.
Ortega has built a great nonprofit career for herself and recognizes the employment and career limitations transgender women face. “There is a lack of leadership-building for trans women,” she says.
Latino/a transgender people often live in extreme poverty. According to a National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) survey, twenty-eight percent of transgender Latinos reported a household income of less than $10,000 a year, which is nearly double the rate for transgender people of all races, more than five times the general Latino/a population rate, and seven times the general U.S. population rate. For non-citizen Latino/a participants, the poverty rate was 43 percent. The unemployment rate for Latino/a transgender people is 20 percent.
When Alexis Martinez, 63, came out in 1998, her successful printing business began to suffer because she was losing clients. She says she was also harassed by workers because of her gender identity.
Martinez says she was aware of her gender identity from a very early age. “When I was four years old, I knew what I was,” she says. At nineteen Martinez began taking hormones, but she stopped at the age of 29. As a result, she became depressed and battled alcoholism and cocaine addiction until she resumed hormone treatments at the age of 43.
“There are multiple challenges– housing, jobs, and medical care– exacerbated in the trans community,” Martinez says.
The closing lyric of “The Only Black Guy at the Indie-Rock Show” goes, “I wonder if white folks who like Jay-Z often feel as alienated as me,” which opens a conundrum. Somewhere between the Beastie Boys and Eminem, hip hop became one of the most popular art forms on earth, one socially acceptable for white people to like. Whereas American society quickly co-opted and overtook rock‘n’roll, crafting it into its own (white) image, hip hop remained in the category of “black” music and ultimately became the easiest way to stick it to the Baby Boomer Establishment. Soon, African-Americans were recognized as the arbiters of cool — finally recognized for our contributions to American popular culture, dating back almost an entire century — and whiteness became a synonym for squareness.
The reason why the Stuff White People Like humor genre has so many holes in it is because the vast majority of the things lampooned are not white-specific, they’re creature comforts of the middle class. But the lines between race and class are getting blurrier and blurrier by the day, and there are quite a few people of color being born into comfortable financial situations who will likely never know what it’s like to be poor. Thus, memes like White Person Bingo end up portraying a common theme in popular culture: class stereotyping poorly and tastelessly masquerading as race stereotyping. This is hugely problematic because it implies people of color are exempt from liking or owning things that are associated with the middle class. Sometimes the people who make these jokes don’t realize there’s a not-so-fine line between craft beer and malt liquor, and it’s not a line of color.
There is the implicit notion that indie rock is generally linked to the “highbrow middle class” end of American culture. (If your Average American Joe drew a line that connected NPR, indie rock, and white people, that line would be straight as an arrow.) Critics and fans suggest it’s an auteur’s medium, while areas of art chiefly practiced by people of color are most often celebrated for their immediacy and accessibility. (In layman’s terms, the most acclaimed works by POC are things you don’t have to think hard about.) This line was less defined in 2012 (Channel Orange and goodkid, M.A.A.D. city, for instance), but the topic of race and class frequently come up when an artist of color creates something widely considered “highfalutin’” or “artistic.” And then critics fall out of their seats to praise genres of music they generally don’t care about, they pretend the entire world has changed because a person of color has created a challenging piece of art. “These artists are moving beyond the artistic vocabulary of the environment,” they’re likely to say.
But what about those kids of color born into the middle class? It’s likely that they’re going to be turned onto the culture all on their own, without the cooler older siblings who passes down their Pixies records. Also, what about the kids of color born into poverty, ones who take solace in skateboarding and punk? Couldn’t we safely assume the vast majority of people who regularly read this website have Screaming Females (or at least Screaming Trees) listed after Schoolboy Q in their iTunes libraries?