The Catalogue: No. 21

Tuesday, December 18, 2018



Predictably, my semi-weekly (since I alternate with CL) cornucopia of interesting reads:

Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here's the Reality. | Annie Flanagan for The New York Times
Note: It makes me so angry how, among other shitty things,  (1) all these elite universities fell for and salivated over manufactured narratives of ghetto and neglected black students who rose above their circumstances via exceptional academic achievement, (2) this school developed within vulnerable students a lifelong obsession with quantifiable intelligence and merit -- even at the cost of falsifying such achievement (3) we are rewarded by institutions for recounting traumas that are often institutionally afflicted. FUCK.
More than a dozen students and staff members told The Times of pupils being humiliated in front of their peers and of racial groups being pitted against one another. Academically weak students were demeaned, and headstrong students were made to kneel.
More than a half-dozen students interviewed said they had witnessed Mr. Landry choking their schoolmates, and three students observed him slam others on desks. Another three students said they saw Mr. Landry place a child with autism in a closet.
Nyjal Mitchell, 16, said he wanted to be accepted by Mr. Landry because he dreamed of attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He cleaned the school. He stayed later than others. He competed fiercely with his classmates. He said he even ignored attacks on his younger sister, Sanaa, who was bullied.
“I just clicked with the idea of doing something with my life,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I had the idea that the only way that would happen was through the school.” 
How McKinsey Has Helped Raise the Stature of Authoritarian Governments | Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe for The New York Times
Hooray, some juicy white-collar gossip. (I know it's more serious than I'm making it sound.) Also, have you seen the ad they took out? ("McKinsey response to the NYT") LMAO.
It turns out that McKinsey’s role in China is just one example of its extensive — and sometimes contentious — work around the world, according to an investigation by The New York Times that included interviews with 40 current and former McKinsey employees, as well as dozens of their clients.
At a time when democracies and their basic values are increasingly under attack, the iconic American company has helped raise the stature of authoritarian and corrupt governments across the globe, sometimes in ways that counter American interests. Its clients have included Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, Turkey under the autocratic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and corruption-plagued governments in countries like South Africa. 
The Racist Politics of the English Language | Lawrence B. Glickman for Boston Review
The language of “tinged” and “charged” suggests that race can be overemphasized and exaggerated, but elides the fact that any biological notion of race is a fiction, while racism is a very real language of power. Describing Trump and others in language that uses “race” as a neutral concept, whether or not intensified by “tinged” or “charged,” suggests that race can possess both positive and negative valences. This masks that, as history tells us, phrases described as “racially tinged” always involve assertions of race hierarchy, power, and privilege.
Reprogramming Power: Audrey Tang Is Bringing Hacker Culture to the StateApolitical
Audrey Tang is -- and represents -- everything that excites me about the future of Taiwan and the Taiwanese people. She's a literal genius and the world's only transgender government minister, a radical protester who set up WiFi for a student-led occupation, high school dropout, and free software developer. I'm obsessed with her.
Similarly radical is Tang’s approach to her job. She describes herself as a “conservative anarchist”, there to tear down the barriers between people and government, but also to advance reform through give-and-take consensus, rather than conflict. For now, government still has a role to play, but it has to be completely responsive to society.
“I don’t give command nor take command, but I just act as a very reliable channel to contextualize policymaking, so that the civic society can know exactly what’s going on,” she said. It’s almost as if she has reimagined the role of a minister as that of a chatroom moderator.
Toning Down Asian Stereotypes to Make ‘The Nutcracker’ Fit the Times | Robin Pogrebin for The New York Times
Hello, so fun fact -- I've done a research project on Orientalism and Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, but this fun little bit in The Nutcracker completely evaded my notice (I'm now doubting whether I ever actually saw The Nutcracker in its authentic form.) Anyways, I'm glad they're doing away with the Fu Manchu reference and rice-paddy aesthetics.
“In the same way that blackface is limiting and degrading to African-Americans, continuing to present a 19th-century view of Asians does not allow for character nuance for Asian-American dancers today,” Ms. Pazcoguin and Mr. Chan say in a letter on their website. “If all audiences see is the bobbing and shuffling coolie from a bygone era as the only representation of Asians onstage, what message does that send to our Asian students who dream of dancing the Swan Queen?”
Digging into the Racial Politics of ‘Ugly Delicious’ | Rachel Kuo for Reappropriate
This one's a little old (from May 2018) but it is so well-written, comprehensively examined, and still relevant. I especially like the below excerpt about "culinary upscaling," when second/third-generation artists gentrify their parents' work for middle-class (white) consumption. I think about this all the fucking time, especially in the context of Asian American women-owned businesses who do shit like package up Chinese herbs in millennial pink packaging with serif font and sell it for like $10/teabag. Like at what point are we empowering other Asian American entrepreneurs and at what point are we commodifying our parents' otherness in selfish, shitty ways?
Another aspect of culinary ‘upscaling’ is when ‘second generation’ or ‘third generation’ chefs, contribute to the gentrification of places like San Francisco’s Chinatown when ‘uplifting’ their parents’ food... This pedigree exemplifies food scholar Krishnendu Ray’s discussion of professionalism being refracted through prisms of “class, craft, and masculinity” where the ethnic cook is remade and promoted through proper skills, habits, and training to fit “middle-class aspiration and upper-class consumption.”
May-lee Chai’s Collection of Short stories Is An ‘Act of Resistance’ for the Trump Age | Neema Roshania Patel for The Lily
Sorry to be that Debbie Downer, but I wish we more often paired our love for Crazy Rich Asians (stories of excess, abundance, glitz) with critique for how a lot of Asian Americans, particularly non-East Asian Americans, experience a lot of economic anxiety, scarcity, etc. We can do both! We can contain multitudes! Porque no los dos!!!
One [common thread] is an underlying current of economic anxiety. In all the stories, somebody is worrying about money or work. It’s really unusual in American literature as a theme. We don’t really talk about class or work unless it is to show the characters overcoming this challenge or unless it is a story of ultimate success. For my characters, it is just a fact of life. That was really important to me, to show the economic anxiety in the Chinese diaspora, because it’s very much there and runs counter to what we hear about the Chinese immigrant population.
I put this collection together in 2016 as a reaction to the political climate. We are facing a whole new level of crazy, anti-immigrant speech. I put this together as a an act of resistance. 
Honestly, between caring deeply about many things (and being viscerally affected by them), reading heavy, hard-hitting nonfiction, re-watching Schindler's List, and Peninsula traffic-induced road rage, I am feeling MANY THINGS right now.

With love despite it all,
LC

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