Mar 112014

belly dancingNovelist Randa Jarrar has been mocked – and accused of racism – for telling the world that she “can’t stand” white belly dancers. As Eugene Volokh notes, if we were to universalize Jarrar’s objections to “cultural appropriation,” then we might object to East Asian cellists or Japanese productions of Shakespeare, rather than treating the arts as they ought to be treated: as the “common stock of humanity, available for all humanity to use, rather than the exclusive property of some particular race or ethnic group.”

Are such rebuttals entirely fair? After all, there is such a thing as cross-cultural mockery or unintentional caricature. And Jarrar is claiming that the belly dancing of white women is a form of racism and cultural degradation that causes her and other Arab women direct emotional harm. It is something that happens “on Arab women’s backs.” How is it racist and degrading? For wearing traditional costumes and certain kinds of makeup, Jarrar accuses white belly dancers of dressing up in “Arab drag” and appearing with a “brownface Orientalist façade.” She otherwise criticizes the appearance of white dancers (one dancer was too thin for Jarrar’s liking) and the use of made-up names.

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Apr 102012

[Editor's Note: This post is a follow-up on some of the discussion near the end of ep. 52.]

I have often found that great comedy can be deeply philosophical. Wittgenstein once said that one could write a substantial work of philosophy consisting only of jokes. This is certainly true when it comes to philosophy of race. The following are some of the things I show in class to both entertain and spark conversation. Who knew racism could be so darn funny?

White Privilege:

Watch on YouTube.

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Apr 092012

John DerbyshireJohn Derbyshire has been fired from the National Review for an openly racist column on how white people should advise their children with respect to “blacks”: for the most part, avoid them. Because on the whole, they are unintelligent, antisocial, hostile, and dangerous. Or as he puts it, avoid “concentrations of blacks” or places “swamped with blacks,” and leave a place when “the number of blacks suddenly swells,” and keep moving when “accosted by a strange black” in the street. The language is alarmingly dehumanizing: black people come in “swamps” and “concentrations” (and presumably also in hordes, swarms, and just plain gangs). And it’s clearly meant to be a dismissal of the notion — much talked about recently in light of the Trayvon Martin shooting — that African Americans should be able to walk down the street without being shunned, much less attacked.

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