The Best of ColorLines 2009 For Your Holiday Reading Pleasure

By Julianne Hing Dec 24, 2009

While I should be gearing up for the massive family and food extravaganza that is about to descend on my folks’ house tomorrow, I’m more in the mood to curl up on the couch with some good, meaty reading material. If you’re feeling the same, follow my lead and check out some of the highlights from ColorLines magazine this year. The list has the best of ColorLines this year: humor, hard reporting, analysis and sharp writing on race. Read them online, on your phone, or you can be all 20th century like me and print them out. "My Kitsch Is Their Cool" by Sandip Roy

India is everywhere. It’s in Booker Prize lists, spelling bees and specially-for-you nuclear deals. It’s in Sukhi’s homecooked chicken tikka masala paste at Whole Foods. It’s in Bhangra aerobics classes and Britney remixes. Newsweek called South Asians the “new American masala.” Five hundred years after Christopher Columbus thought he had discovered Indians, we are truly found. And I am not sure how I feel about that.

"San Francisco’s Black Exodus" by Jamilah King

Some displaced residents moved to other parts of San Francisco, while others relocated to more affordable cities like Oakland and East Palo Alto. In total, more than 5,000 families were displaced. Ironically, since the end of the urban renewal programs in the ’70s, San Francisco city officials have commissioned several studies investigating why Black residents are leaving and how to get them back.

"Retreat Into Whiteness" by Jeff Chang

Post-millennial white flight is driven by the same forces that post-World War II white flight was—a desire for bigger houses, better schools, open spaces, leisure and pleasure, and escape from darker-skinned people. Whitopias—whether Pleasantville small towns, gated 18-hole idylls or sizzling boomtown exurbs—top the rankings of desirable communities. As Benjamin writes, whites relate racial homogeneity with order, value, cleanliness, friendliness, comfort and beauty. And nostalgia.

"Protest, Tweet, Raid Savings" by Cindy Von Quednow

As California faces a $26 billion deficit, the state’s public universities and colleges are confronting massive budget cuts and students are expected to pay a 30-percent increase in fees. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating the Cal Grants program that awards aid to low-income students, and due to the budget shortfall 10,000 students were denied admission to Cal State universities last year. All of this is expected to have an acute impact on education along race lines. Cal State is the nation’s largest four-year university system; twenty-four percent of its students are Latino, 17 percent are Asian and 6 percent are Black.

"Glee Is Off Key On Race" by Alex Jung

He does what liberals often do, which is to apply the same cookie-cutter oppression onto everyone. Will tells Sue: “You were right to shine the spotlight on the fact that those kids are minorities.” In a Reading Rainbow moment at the end, he even proceeds to tell his students: “You’re all minorities—you’re in the Glee Club…So it doesn’t matter that Rachel is Jewish or that Finn is…” Straight, white boy Finn interjects, “unable to tell my right from my left” eliciting collective laughter from the group. Just as Avenue Q taught us that everyone’s a lil’ bit racist, Glee moralizes that everyone’s a lil’ bit oppressed—an astounding bit of alchemy that equalizes being Black with being disabled with being a white quarterback.

"Battling the Chef Menteur Landfill" by Kari Lydersen

Urban farming was key to helping the Vietnamese American community of about 20,000 become among the first to return to flood-ravaged homes and restart their lives after Katrina, with little assistance from government officials. They immediately planted small gardens, even outside FEMA trailers housed on a large vacant lot before moving back into their own homes. It took many months for a grocery store to reopen anywhere nearby, but urban farming provided them sustenance along with a sense of calm and cultural connection in trying times.

"District 9: Loved It? Hated It?" by Daisy Hernandez

District 9 also has the dominant message that’s heard routinely in the evening news and on conservative blogs about immigrants and blacks: they hate each other. In Blomkamp’s sci-fi film, this hatred manifests when, in mock news coverage, black South Africans take to the streets demanding that the aliens be placed in someone else’s backyard. White people, by contrast, are featured in the film as experts, liberals really, who are sympathetic in a clinical way toward the aliens.

"The Invention of The Jewish People" by Alec Dubro

To the extent that it’s kind of fascinating to know where my Eastern European ancestors might have come from. I also think it’s very important to constantly rebut any racial underpinnings of modern Zionism. Some Jews may have ancestral ties to the land now called Israel, but that in no way justifies the creation of a religiously stratified and exclusive state. As Sand notes, the people we call Palestinians almost certainly include descendants of the Jews and others who have lived on that land over the millennia, whose religions and governments have changed regularly.