This Week in Diversity: Changes in the Landscape

It’s easy to think of racial groups as cultural monoliths: black culture is like this, Asian culture is like that. An article on culture clashes between recent immigrants from Africa and African Americans, many of them descendants of slaves whose families have been in the U.S. for centuries, reminds us of the complexity. It also opens a window into perceptions of blackness and Africanness, as when a recent African immigrant says of African Americans, “Those people, they don’t respect African people,” or when a black American says of a black African, “They think they’re better than black people.”

Continuing with the idea of blackness in America, Ta-Nahesi Coates brings us a beautifully written essay on blackness, obesity, segregation, and shame. I keep coming back to this line: “Segregation was a cocoon brimming with all the lovely variety of black life.”

Shifting gears, a look at Japanese perspectives on aesthetics, beauty, function, and form, as demonstrated by the bento box—an elaborately arranged lunchbox.

Last week we discussed a judge in Louisiana who denied a marriage license to an interracial couple. This week we get the flip side of that coin: a candidate in New York is featuring his interracial family in political ads and it’s unusual—but turning out not to be a big deal.

Along with shifts in population and politics come shifts in language. In New York’s Chinatown, Cantonese, the dominant language for decades, is giving way to Mandarin. Not only are there more Mandarin-speaking families in Chinatown, Cantonese ones are having their children taught Mandarin, the official language of China and increasingly used throughout the world.

For quite a bit of discussion on racism and books, turn to Amy Bowllan’s Writers Against Racism series. She’s talked to several Lee & Low authors and illustrators, including Christine Taylor-Butler, Gaylia Taylor, Don Tate, Zetta Elliott, Tony Medina, and Uma Krishnaswami.

Lastly, a bit of celebration: tomorrow is the birthday of Louis Sockalexis, the first Native American major league baseball player. I like birthdays. They are an excuse to eat cake.



  1. Posted October 26, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    The story of the gullah people, who are still living along the coastal regions of North Carolina, south Carolina, Georgia and Florida speaks directly to the controversy among African Americans and Africans.
    The Gullah people are direct descendants of the African slaves who were brought to the coastal regions as slaves in the 1870’s.
    And they are now working very hard to preserve their heritage and their culture. It’s not a question of who is “better,” but the challenge to preserve the culture and the history of the African American people and the Gullah culture.

  2. Posted October 26, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Awesome round-up of links. Much to read and savor – thanks!

  3. Posted October 26, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Sandy – Good point about the gullah. Now I need to read up on them!

    Eva – you’re welcome, and thank you! Check back every Friday for more.

  4. Posted November 6, 2009 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    And me, Miriam! I’m on Amy Bowllan’s Writers Against Racism series as well.

  5. Posted November 6, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Uma! I updated the post to include the link to your interview.

  6. Posted November 22, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link, and we will continue to bring this to the world’s attention. We’re in this together.

  7. Posted November 23, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    You’re welcome, Amy, and thanks for all you do!

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