baratron: (voted)
Am back from telling. Dogs at the Polling Station update: 5 during the hours of 1pm - 3pm.

Yay: I got licked by a very fluffy husky.
Boo: His owner was a very obnoxious Tory.

Here is an interesting video from BBC News: How do you vote when you're blind?

In other news, London's newspaper, the Evening Standard officially Went Too Far last night. It is now edited by George Osborne, who is famous primarily for being Chancellor of the Exchequer (a.k.a. Finance Minister) for David Cameron's government. Obviously, you would expect a bit of Tory bias in his newspaper.

Well, yesterday it was announced that Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, is unwell. Shadow Ministers are from the main Opposition party (currently, the Labour Party) and literally "shadow" the jobs of Government ministers. Conservatives have argued that she isn't really unwell at all, this is an excuse to get her out of the limelight because of mistakes she has been making during the Election campaign. Personally, given my chronic illnesses, it seems entirely obvious to me that a person who has previously been very competent and suddenly starts making mistakes could be ill. But hey, I'm biased in a different direction.

The Home Secretary is responsible for immigration, policing, and national security. Theresa May was previously Home Secretary, and during her incumbency the UK Home Office asked LGBT asylum seekers utterly atrocious personal questions, held traumatised people in detention, generally treated them like crap on a stick, and sent legitimate asylum seekers back to their original countries to get tortured and/or killed. The Home Secretary is also responsible for the UK's efforts to Fight the War Against Some Terrorists. It's basically the third most important job in the British Government.

The Evening Standard responded to the news of Diane Abbott's illness by commissioning this absolutely appalling cartoon. It's rude, obnoxious, and dismissive of pretty much everyone with a long-term serious health condition. The rather wonderful Jack Monroe has pointed out everything that Diane Abbott has achieved in her career. It's long, and impressive. Plenty of other politicians never accomplish this much. So why does she get so much abuse? Could it be because she dares to be middle-aged, female, black, and fat?
baratron: (london)
I overheard the most thought-provoking conversation today. This woman went up to a man who was working behind one of the market stalls in Camden Market and asked him if he was from some specific part of Nigeria.

He said "Yes, I'm from [place]."

She said "I knew as soon as I saw you that you were my brother! I'm from [other place nearby]." (The only reason I know that these places are in Nigeria, or indeed near each other, is because the woman explained it to her friend. I think she said they were ten miles apart.)

He said "That's so amazing!"

She said "Isn't it? I'm going to phone my mum to tell her."

He said "Yeah, I should do the same."

And she pulled out her phone to call her mum right away, and as soon as he'd finished serving customers, he called a family member too.

I just don't know how she recognised him as being from that very specific part of Nigeria though. It wasn't accent, because they both had broad London accents. I've been thinking about it ever since, how bad people are at recognising ethnicities beyond broad definitions like "black", "South Asian", "East Asian", "South American". I recognise the difference between north Africans, west Africans, South Africans, Somalis (they look like Mo Farah!), and people from certain parts of the Caribbean, but that's as far as I could get. And I suspect that's better than a lot of people who aren't themselves black.

The sad thing is, I could have a reasonable stab at identifying the origins of white Europeans - but that's based on things like clothing style as well as just physical appearance. So it is obviously possible even within people who look broadly similar. Is it cultural indoctrination of a sort, recognising people who are "like us"? Probably. It's probably related to whatever it is in childhood development that makes a baby of a certain age know how to recognise an animal as a "dog", even considering how many different and strange shapes of dog there are. (Don't get me started on some of the crazier specifications of pedigree dog breeds. Just don't.)

But how can a person who is interested learn as an adult how to recognise people's ancestry as belonging to a specific ethnic origin? Not because you're prejudiced - I'm inclined to think that a prejudiced person would simply label them all as "foreign" and not bother learning the nuances - but because people are fundamentally fascinating and you live in a huge city with people of every conceivable background. I suppose that's something taught in anthropology, but it's not as if you get to measure the bones and calculate the ratios of the measurements when you pass random people in the street! Hrm.
baratron: (what's this?)
Have some links: The Snarky, Clever Comments Hidden in the "Acknowledgments" of Academic Papers. A few days later, this article appeared in The Times, hardly edited at all. Hrm.

Twitter picture: Just wrapped the other half's Xmas present. I should have kept it in the box. May be NSFW?

Fungal Christmas tree. Yeah, I should have posted this link about a month ago.

Short story: The Racist Tree by Alexander Blechman.

BBC News: Amiir and Family: Somalis in Norway. Rather moving webcomic in the style of Persepolis and Maus.

The Dwarf Bride by Sammy Montoya. Awesome 8 page comic with queer theme.

Random Tumblr stuff:
Real bear with a teddy bear.

Fifty Shades of Grey as read aloud by a Kindle.

Books I Like by Katie Viggers. Children's picture books reviewed.
baratron: (boooooks)
Because it's still Wednesday somewhere.

What am I reading now?
Aralorn: Masques and Wolfsbane by Patricia Briggs. This is slightly cheating because I have in fact finished it once already, and am reading it again because I don't want it to end. Masques is an old novel of hers which has been dug out and polished up, and published in an omnibus edition with a sequel. I love it when authors do that, taking an old story which they wrote mainly on instinct, and revise it with everything they've learned since.

I don't love it when an author's old story is simply republished without revision. I tried to read The Flood by Ian Rankin a few months ago, and gave up because I realised that I had absolutely no interest in any of the characters or what was going to happen to them. Just as well, the ending was entirely unsatisfactory.

What have I read recently?
Minion by L.A. Banks. I picked this up from the library for the sole reason that it was a modern urban fantasy with a black girl on the cover, rather than the usual mixed-race-but-passes-for-white, and I thought that sort of thing should be encouraged. I've had it out for months but not had the concentration span to read it. Anyway, it's set in modern-day America and features a team of vampire hunters, so far so good, but then it turns a load of clichés on their head.

The first couple of pages of dialogue annoyed me, because I thought they were trying too hard, but then my brain adjusted to the lower-class African-American speech patterns. And I found part of myself deriding the rest of myself for being such a classist or racist as to have been uncomfortable with it at the beginning. Why should everyone in books be incredibly middle-class? Young people in particular should have the opportunity to read books with heroes who speak the same way that they do. How can you expect people to get interested in reading when no one in the story is like themselves?

I ended up reading the entire book in one go, didn't even skip to the end to find out what happened, which is very unusual for me. Turns out it's the sort of book where you have to read the sequel. So I need to find it on the library database and order it.

What am I going to read next?
I've had Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett out of the library for a while now, so probably that.
baratron: (lego)
I have reached a stage of ARGH with my work, so I'm going to post all of the links I have cluttering up my "working" Firefox profile :)

From [ profile] epi_lj: Hollywood's Racism Exposed ... by Lego. Interesting.

From [ profile] skibbley: New bisexual IKEA ad airs in Austria. It's amusing... apart from continuing to propagate the "bisexuals are cheaters"/"can't be monogamous" stereotype. Or does it? Maybe the boyfriend simply doesn't like to be in the flat when his partner is having sex with his girlfriend!

From Shana Logic: IKEA Let Loose a Herd of 100 Cats Into Store to 'See What Happens'. If you're really interested, the ad was shot in the branch of IKEA we used to go to when I was a kid (Wembley). We don't go there any more because there's one much closer to us now (Croydon).

From Beetlebau on Night of the Living Trekkies (book trailer). Books have trailers now?

Finally, in case you haven't seen this anywhere else, and care: the Complete Pokedex for Pokemon Black & White.

*hits Refresh a few more times to see if anyone's replied to my message asking for help yet*
baratron: (baratron)
This video is making the news: HP Computers are racist. "Black Desi" and "White Wanda" show what happens when they move in front of a new HP laptop with a face recognition camera. The camera moves to track the light-skinned woman, but does not move for the dark-skinned man - even when he gets close.

Of course, the computers aren't really racist - it's a technology problem to do with lighting and shadows. Kudos for the video makers in pointing out the issue without losing their sense of humour. Still, you have to wonder - do technology companies not think to routinely test out "people recognition" technologies with people of many different appearances? including different ages, races, and the disabled, whose faces may not move in a typical way? If not, why not? If technology doesn't work in the same way for everyone, then it is a sort of racism by omission or lack of thought. Unintentional, but hurtful nonetheless.
baratron: (Default)
I've just been watching Nick Griffin (short BBC biography / long Wikipedia entry) on Question Time. Some thoughts: Long )

The "Wisdom" of Nick Griffin
"Indigenous British" people are descended from the people who were here 17,000 years ago."Skin colour is irrelevant". Nick Griffin apparently has no freaking idea of the history of this country. Being an island, we've been invaded a ridiculously large number of times - Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, just in the past couple of thousand years. Our blood is so co-mingled that, even were records available, I'm not sure anyone could trace themselves back that far.

I'm pleased to know that if the BNP suddenly got into power, Nick Griffin would permit me and all the other non-white people to stay in this country. I wonder if the rest of his party agree with him on that, though? Pretty sure a lot of BNP members think that brown people should be sent back to where they came from, which is a problem if you come from here. Maybe they'd have some sort of "Britishness" test.

Nick Griffin thinks that the BBC is "ultra left-wing". This would be the same BBC that is officially impartial and allowed him, as an ultra right-wing politician onto the programme in the face of Cabinet criticism and serious protests? Riiiight.

I'm glad the programme wasn't 100% everyone pile on Nick Griffin, let's see what an idiot he is. Apparently he went to Cambridge, so he must have a brain in there somewhere. I find many of his views repugnant, but it's worth noting how he's managed to drag the BNP from being an extreme racist party with a handful of jackbooted supporters into something that ordinary people are prepared to vote for.

An audience member asked the various panelists about Jan Moir's hateful Stephen Gately article in the Daily Mail. The four panelists who were not in the BNP gave essentially identical answers in favour of free speech (unsurprising considering they were willing to appear on TV alongside the BNP), but suggesting that a person/newspaper should consider whether their opinion is in good taste. Nick Griffin however came out with some wonders:

"I'm against the teaching of homosexuality to primary school children. I'm against the teaching of any kind of sexuality in primary school, I think it's wrong." I started my periods in primary school - was I supposed to think I was bleeding to death?

"Most British people find two men kissing creepy." It's the view of most of Britain, along with all the Muslims and all the Christians. Erm... for someone who is anti-Islam because you think it treats women as second-class citizens, why are you now acting like you're all on the same side? Also, most Christians in this country are not actively against homosexuality.

"Homophobic prejudice - I don't think there's any place in a civilised society for it" - go, Chris Huhne!

I'm going to write some stuff about me sometime. Not sure when.
baratron: (blue)
I haven't said very much about the "Racefail" business that's been happening on various parts of the internet due to lack of coherent comment, but I thought of something interesting yesterday.

My racial identity is mixed-race, which is interesting in itself. The concept of mixed-race did not exist formally in the UK until after the 2001 census. Before that, whenever I had to fill in a form with a "Race" box, I had to tick "Other", and possibly go into slightly more detail than I wanted to. Now, there exists a box that fits my identity: "Mixed - White and Asian". I don't like to think of myself in terms of fitting ticky boxes, but having spent too many years as an unspecified Other, I like that there now is a box for me.

There remain people who deny the concept of mixed-race, or wish to change it for everyone. The former Labour MP Oona King described how she had trouble adopting a baby because she had described herself on the form as "mixed-race". She was promptly told by the social worker that the term was no longer acceptable, and she needed to start describing herself as "dual heritage" instead. That made me incredibly angry. My heritage is mixed. My four grandparents each came from a different country. Two of them were white and two of them were Asian, but are you telling me that two Asians from different countries have the same heritage? 'Cos I think that's rather disrespectful. Are you telling me that Scottish and English is the same heritage? 'Cos I'm sure I could find a dozen Scots who would argue that their culture is different in several important ways from that of the English. Besides, if you go further back a few more generations, you'll find I have French and Jewish blood as well. And I must be at least part-Irish because of my mother's maiden name and the strange tooth mutation I have, which is only ever found in people of Irish descent. I'm not dual-anything. If I want to describe myself as "Heinz 57 varieties", I mean no disrespect either to myself or to the Heinz company. I'm proud to have ancestors from all over the globe.

Anyway. As a person of mixed race, I do not identify as "white", but I'm not a "person of colour" either. My skin is light enough that, in these days of ozone holes and skin cancer, I pass for white most of the time. (Less so when I was a child and we weren't afraid of suntans). Though enough people notice my colouring in London that I regularly get chatted up because of an incorrect assumption about my race. I've been mistaken for Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Turkish, Brazilian, Pacific Islander... No one ever guesses correctly. And often when I tell people of my actual heritage, they think I'm lying to them. Which makes no freaking sense at all to me. Few people have heard of the country that my father's parents left during a coup d'état when he was a child, despite its recent prevalence in the news. (For reasons which are too complicated to go into, I won't ever say which country in a public internet post, though it's easy enough to find out). And my name gives you no clue, being 100% British because my Asian grandfather changed his name.

Do you think I like having "white privilege"? Of course not. In fact, if I ever think someone is giving me special treatment because they think I'm white, I'll go out of my way to tell them that I'm not. But I don't always know that someone is treating me differently because of a racial assumption, just as I don't always know that someone is treating me differently because of my gender, presumed age (I look about 10 years younger than I really am), or disability status. Nonetheless, being able to "claim" white privilege when I'm not entitled to it feels exactly like claiming heterosexual privilege for my primary relationship when I'm bisexual. And I'm sure a lot of you know just how comfortable that one feels.
baratron: (eye)
Today's piece of non-news: 98% of Daily Express readers would like the "full-face Muslim veil" banned.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's news article, where they mention that:

  • 95% of Daily Express readers would like Britain to withdraw from the EU.
  • 80% lament the loss of "Christian Britain".
  • 70% of the lamenters of "Christian Britain" haven't actually stepped foot in a church in 20 years yet still resent all the "non-Christians".
  • 50% would like Muslims banned.
  • 33% would like all Muslims "sent back to where they came from".
  • 25% would like all the "darkies", no matter what religion, to be "sent back to where they came from".
baratron: (goggles)
Unsettling encounter with a student. He turned up wanting to have a lesson on a topic that only appears on the IB syllabus - it's not part of A-level. So it's not something I already had a set of notes or questions prepared for. Managed to find some questions in one of my books, but my printer/scanner/photocopier doesn't photocopy books very well. There's a corner shop about 5 minutes' walk away that has a proper photocopier, so I was going to run round there, except I didn't already have my boots on. He was still wearing shoes and volunteered to go instead of me.

I don't know exactly what happened, but a 10 minute round trip turned into half an hour (he admitted he'd somehow managed to go the wrong way, despite my clear instructions of "Go to the mini-roundabout & turn left - you'll see a wine shop, a bridal shop and the corner shop, called [name deleted]") and he came back in a foul mood without the photocopies. Apparently the way the photocopier was set up made it impossible for him to get the book to copy properly (also despite my clear instructions of how to do A3 to A4 reduction). But even though he couldn't get the copies, the guy who was working in the shop at the time still wanted 10p for the messed-up paper. This had made him angry.

He said "I'm not racist, but I hate these grasping Asian businessmen."

My response should have been "If you're not racist, why did you need to specifiy an ethnicity?"

It's a historical accident that the vast majority of corner shops in this country are run by Asians. It's to do with the way Britain went out and colonised parts of the Indian subcontinent, and the fact that when our "colonists" came to settle in the UK, they found that racist attitudes about the quality of their education prevented them from getting a lot of jobs. To pay their children's way through university, so the same arguments wouldn't be applied to the second generation, they took whichever niche work was available to them. In the 1950s and 60s, supermarkets were starting to push the traditional grocers, greengrocers and butchers out of business. But supermarkets tended to be available only in the very centres of large towns, and people who lived in smaller towns or villages, or who didn't have ready access to transport, couldn't always manage to get into the supermarket - especially if it was for one "emergency" item like milk. Hence the idea of a corner shop was a niche market for the Asian immigrants to take. The fact that the immigrants wanted to work as hard as possible so they could afford the best possible for their children meant that corner shops started to be open later than the old grocers and greengrocers they replaced, and as many of them were not Christian, they had no qualms about opening on Sundays. Nowadays, a large proportion of the corner shops on the outskirts of urban areas are run by people of various Asian origins - some of them even second- or third-generation British Asians. Read more... )


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