Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Posts Tagged ‘whiteness

Tony Blair: More American than the US President

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The Situationist‘ recently featured research by Mahzarin Banaji and Thierry Devos on the connection between being white in the US and being regarded American. It’s a sensible addition to the “birther” conspiracy on Barack Obama’s citizenship (if you have not heard of it, watch this Daily Show segment that presents the debate with the scrutiny and mock it deserves).

Here is what Banaji found out:

Amazingly, white Americans did see a white European like Hugh Grant as being somehow more American than the Asian-American Connie Chung. And similar research in 2008 found that whites thought of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair as somehow more American than Obama. So the mental framework to believe that Obama is foreign probably was, to use a health care term, a preexisting condition. [emphasis added]


Written by henrik

August 24, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Gays against immigrants? – the ‘nationalisation’ of gay rights

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Darkmatter recenty had an excellent post on a topic that has interested me for a while: it is about how sexual tolerance is becoming a tool that is used to present immigrant groups in Germany as inferior.

Darkmatter picks up a report from the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on a report on the issue: 

According to Süddeutsche, the study showed that ‘migrant kids in particular strongly rejected homosexuality’, and that German kids were more likely to be weltoffen, that is, open minded or cosmopolitan. While on the one hand all migrant subjects are hereby constituted as a single category – that is, not German and hence not weltoffen – there is at the same time a hierarchy constructed within the migrant community through the problematization of religion.

and examines the report against the backgrop of the “integration discourse”

The question of open-mindedness (Weltoffenheit) is directly linked to the question of ‘integration’: those marked out by a religious identity are considered unable or unwilling to integrate. German values (symbolized, of course, by ‘cosmopolitan’ Berlin, the nation’s moral as well as political capital) are accordingly placed under threat by Islamic migrants. 

The conclusion is that

Homophobia is thus simultaneously nationalized and racialized. In an act of audacious historical revisionism, Germany becomes equated with gay rights (as an expression of its general regard for ‘human rights’), while Islam is constituted as homophobic (and thus outside a discourse of ‘human rights’). Gay rights are thus mobilized in anti-immigration discourse as a key signifier of European cultural superiority, as (white) gay Germans assert their membership of the national community through the construction of the figure of the homophobic Muslim.


As gay rights become articulated to the nation and used as markers of European, Western or ‘civilizational’ superiority, they are simultaneously becoming detached from their historical relation to a left-wing politics. Borders and battle lines that were once thought set and certain in our wars of position are suddenly revealed to be in flux, as political antagonisms are more than ever before ‘being formulated in terms of moral categories’, and the seductive lexicon of liberation struggles is mined by a variety of dubious social actors intent on providing for themselves a veneer of ethical legitimacy. As sexuality has come to play a major role in shaping dominant Western attitudes towards cultural difference, scholars and activists the world over are becoming starkly aware of the normative racial bias in hegemonic forms of sexual politics.

Darkmatter adds an extensive overview of the connection between postcolonialism and sexuality in the context of counterterrorism and national assertion against multiculturalism. It reveals the ‘whiteness’ of theories on sexuality and the implicit racism that comes with it. It worth reading.

It notable in this context that anti-immigrant discourses from the right seem to be quite pragmatic in incorporating rather leftist political issues and constituencies for the purpose of creating a national identity against immigrants or cultural difference – not only when it comes to sexuality. Another example is the  the sudden embracement of animal rights against halal Muslim practices of slaughtering, or also the conservative flirt with women’s rights and laicism used to alienate Muslims  – by a party that calls itself “Christian Democrats” (see Jytte Klausen‘s excellent book about it).

White gang violence

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I was in Glasgow recently. When we were about to see a movie and I suggested a cinema a but further out from were I stayed, I was quite surprised to hear that the cinema was in a part of the city that I should absolutely avoid at night. Upon seeing me raise my eyebrows, my friends showed me this video:

Find the video here

Several thousand youths who take part in gang violence in Glasgow. The average life expectancy for a man in the poorest parts of Glasgow: 54 years – as compared to 76 years UK-wide. It’s a rough place.

What’s also interesting though is that the video shows how white kids participate in gang violence. Glasgow, the “knife capital of Europe”, “public health hazard”, is way worse an environment that the “banlieues” around Paris or German “migrant ghettos” . This shows again the idiocy of assuming that the problem of youth violence in European cities can be pinned down to (Arab) ethnicity, (non-white) race or (Muslim) religion. And it confirms what I have mentioned here earlier: that youth violence is a problem created by social class and communal neglect rather than race or culture.

I wonder though how much media exposure gang violence in Glasgow would get if the kids in the video were Muslim immigrants from the Maghreb or Turkey…

Written by henrik

February 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm