Miss America, President Obama, and Me

In light of the racist responses to Nina Davuluri’s crowning as Miss America, I decided to say a little bit about the hang ups people have surrounding questions of nationality. Most of the time when people ask, “What’s your nationality?” they probably don’t know what they’re asking, and they really want to know about someone’s ethnicity, but either way….it’s something we all need to think more about. Because it’s often rooted to some form of racism.

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6 thoughts on “Miss America, President Obama, and Me

    • Hey Saad, I haven’t read Falguni Sheth’s book, but I have heard her speak a number of times and follow her on Twitter. She’s pretty terrific! And in terms of teaching, I’m very comfortable with pretty much anything in feminist philosophy– ethics, ontology, epistemology–so that would be easy. I’ve already taught undergraduate classes on race, sexuality, and diversity, and I think we could easily come up with a graduate level seminar. However, I think that crafting a group study would probably be easier to organize and coordinate. There are very few people doing philosophy of race with respect to Asian and Arab identities, so I think that would be really cool. We could even add a twist of sexuality in the mix since Asians are often over-sexualized or severely desexualized in American representations, whereas it seems that sexuality is hardly ever connected with Arab people (which is totally worth exploring).

      Basically, I would use the opportunity to learn with the graduate students, so if you had a group of people who wanted to do something in particular, I’d be more than happy to pursue the exploration with you!

      Cheers!

      • Hey Cori! Yea, her work is interesting and great. And all those topics sound fascinating, from feminist theory to racial identities to different cultures and sexuality, I’m sure we could figure out an intriguing focus area. I’ll pitch the idea to my grad colleagues and then to Jane. Hopefully I’ll be in touch in the next few weeks.

        And you’re right about the lack of sexual depictions when it comes to Arabs. But in those rare occasions where Arabs are depicted sexually, it tends to be overly exoticized. Reminds me of Edward Said’s description of “The Oriental,” where Arab men are depicted as feminine, but strangely dangerous because their sexuality poses a threat to white, Western women. And Arab women are depicted as both eager to be dominated and strikingly exotic, like the cliche Aladdin or belly-dancer look. Rarely is an image at all presented on Arab sexuality, let alone a positive one. Makes you think they are asexual Beings. Their population growth, however, tells another story.

        But in terms of race as it relates to Arabs and Asians, I find Dr. Sheth’s approach useful because she seems to suggest that race should be understood as a technological tool that is used by political and social institutions to divide and dominate certain populations. This seems to open up the concept of race significantly, such that various inputs go into making race and not just race itself. So with Arabs, for example, there is a tri-racial dynamic when it comes to the process of racialization: race itself, religion, and terror. Racially, Arabness is not something positively thought of or depicted. Religiously, Arabs are assimilated with Islam and Muslims to such an extent that the thought of there being a non-Muslim or Christian or Buddhist Arab is rarely exercised. And finally, our post 9/11 world has added the component of “terror,” such that Arabs are the end all be all of terror. Arabs would contend they are terrific, not terrorific 😉 but that’s another topic. All three of these components, I think, make an interesting case for pursuing questions of race as they relate to Arabs and Asians. Like your video explained, it seems these two categories often get lumped together by less educated folk. Indian equals Arab equals Pakistani equals Bengali and so on. But whatever they equal, they definitely don’t equal American lol Anyhoo, I’ll stop ranting. Thanks for listening.

        Cheers!

  1. Hey Cori,

    I just wanted to say great work you’re doing. You’re bridging some gaps that very few philosophers do. Also, I saw you at the CSU annual philosophy department dinner tonight. I wasn’t able to say hi, but I’m curious if you’re currently teaching? Again, great work and glad you decided to tackle the miss America bonanza. Philosophy of race is one of my cheif interests and this case gives me reason to reflect on these issues. Kudos!

    • Hi Saad,

      Thanks for leaving your comments! I’m happy that you found your way to my blog and decided to get in touch. I was pretty excited when I heard you mention your interest in philosophy of race, and it’s totally awesome that you are familiar with Charles Mills’ work.

      I’m currently teaching at Front Range, but there is hope to organize something at CSU. If you would like for me to teach something in particular (like something that isn’t currently readily available from the faculty) be sure to let Jane know. It would be easier to arrange something when there is expressed interest from the grad students.

      I hope we get another chance to cross paths soon. Thanks again for checking out my blog!

      • That’s an awesome idea. I’d be interested in having you teach a class or seminar in feminist theory or philosophy of race or something interesecting both. I guess I should ask what you currently teach and would be comfortable teaching? Once you fill me in, I’ll definitely let Jane know about my interest and see if any of my grad colleagues would be interested as well.

        And I’m sure we’ll cross paths sooner or later. I think once it comes time to pursue thesis work I’ll have to run some of my ideas past you, since I’m hoping to write something pertaining to the philosophy of race. I’m of Syrian origin so I was raised amongst a variety of Arab and Asian cultures and I feel like there’s a lot that could be said about the “racialization” of such groups. Not sure if you’ve heard of Dr. Falguni Sheth, but she wrote, “Towards a Political Philosophy of Race,” which is one of the few works I know of that deals specifically with race as it relates to Arabs and Asians.

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