Model minorities versus Black (reverse) racists: Blacks, Asian Americans, & South Philadelphia High
Tamara K. Nopper
December 18, 2009
As a resident of Philadelphia and an Asian American concerned with and engaged in research and writing about Black-Asian relations, I have been following Asian American students’ recent boycott of South Philadelphia High School after almost 30 of them were purportedly physically attacked by a group of Black and Asian students on December 3, 2009. The whole situation makes me sad. Yet I’m concerned with how Black people are being implicated by some of the media reporting and political support for the students. Specifically, I am concerned with how some are taking advantage of the situation to promote the all too popular and white supremacist charge of Black reverse racism, even when some of the alleged perpetrators have been identified as Asian American. In the following I explore the image of Black reverse racism and how some non-Blacks have used this to marshal support for their causes. I also consider how the Asian American students at South Philadelphia High are being depicted by some of the media and supporters as model minorities in opposition to Black criminals and reverse racists.
The trouble with transgender politics
By Tamara K. Nopper
August 15, 2008
I have become increasingly interested in and troubled by transgender politics. I first learned what the term transgender meant when, almost a decade ago, I worked with a person who self-identified as trans. She no longer (or perhaps never did) identified with the physical body in which she inhabited. Eventually, she asked us to begin identifying her with male pronouns, altered her name slightly to drop a letter at the end that identified the name as female, and engaged in a series of behaviors that were, to put it mildly, masculine (and at times downright dudish), which, presumably, was to remind us that she was now a transgender man.
I was not yet familiar with the term transgender, something that my co-worker assumed I should have been since I was, at the time, enrolled in a Ph.D. program. According to my co-worker, I should have “known better.” While revealing his bourgeois belief that political enlightenment is actually encouraged in the U.S. academy, I was more intrigued with his assumption that I should politically care about his need to be accepted as another gender than what he had been assigned. I had never really thought of having another gender as a political option. I had only considered how men and women were exotified and disciplined, in a variety of ways, for not having bodies that were deemed appropriate. And given that my own Asian body, what many label as “thick,” was often treated as an illicit spectacle by a multiracial group of observers, I was already aware that a fixation on bodies is very much shaped by racial ideologies about what is viewed as appropriate physiology for one’s race. And I also knew that no one had an appropriate body unless the body was white.