Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review: "There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration" by Ali Noorani


Ali Noorani is the President and Director of National Immigration Forum. He began writing There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration in 2010, after Congress failed to pass The Dream Act, despite the Democratic Party majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Those advocating human rights for migrants were bitterly disappointed that, despite decades of advocacy and organizing, legislation which would have provided the most meager of relief for some undocumented immigrants failed. 

Ali Noorani identifies that cultural advocacy was the missing ingredient: "When Americans were looking for an answer to their questions of cultural identity, we gave them a political answer instead." [p. 30]

Friday, December 18, 2020

Documentary: The Problem with Apu by Hari Kondabolu

I've liked Hari Kondabolu since seeing a YouTube clip (profanity warning) of why he doesn't use an accent in his comedy acts. When Roku and HBO Max finally resolved their differences, the first movie I watched was his 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu. The documentary is an excellent walk-through about the importance of representation in popular culture, a topic which I've covered in this blog's entries on TV shows, movies and documentaries. There were several points the movie made which stand out for me.

The writers on The Simpsons never considered the impact the character Apu had on actual people. When Hari was interviewing a former producer who pointed out that the show's portrayal of the evil oligarch Mr. Burns was stereotypical and Hari pointed out that one couldn't compare the positions of oligarchs and convenience store operators in society, the producer said that the only consideration in the writers' room was whether dialog was funny. Hari then points out that the only reason Apu and his accent are funny is because society is racist.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Film: "Zahra and the Oil Man" by Yucef Mayes

My local NBC affiliate substituted "African American Short Films" by BamadiTV for the repeatedly postponed Baltimore Ravens versus Pittsburgh Steelers football game. Among the features was the short film Zahra and the Oil Man, directed by Yucef Mayes.

It's refreshing to see a depiction of USA Muslims without violence and with loving family relationships. Yet the film has a twist which I didn't see coming and a satisfying resolution, so I can recommend it for more than just its representational value.

The film is available for streaming from Alchemiya & Kweli TV.

The film has a Facebook Page. Here's the IMDB entry.

You can subscribe to be notified if a BamadiTV program airs in your locale.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Recommendation: India in the West: South Asians in America by Ronald Takaki


I remember attending an Asian Students Association meeting at the University of Virginia to hear from the guest lecturer Ronald Takaki, whom I had known about because of his book condemning the United States's use of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The students' excitement was as if a diety had entered the room, and it was really the first time I remember considering ethnicity and identity to be important. Professor Takaki was a leading figure in the movement for multiculturalism in education. India in the West: South Asians in America was published in 1995 as part of a series of books designed for young adult readers. It is adapted and reprinted from his 1989 classic Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Review: "Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism" by Ozzie Zehner

I watched the documentary Planet of the Humans and acquired Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism, whose author, Ozzie Zehner, was a producer.

The book has three sections. The first debunks the idea of clean energy production. This is especially difficult to read, because I had never entertained serious doubts that humanity could and should continue to expand its energy production as long as it used "clean" & "renewable" energy such as solar, wind, tidal and (one day!) nuclear fusion. I'm an avid consumer of science fiction and futurism, and most of these cultural products assume that humanity has solved its environmental limits while maintaining an ever-increasing standard of living.

A few lines from Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth by Adam Frank explains why physicists believe this is theoretically impossible, but Ozzie Zehner's documentary and book brought this point home to me.

Friday, August 28, 2020

What Do Societies With Just Immigration Polices Look Like? Thoughts After Reading Suketu Mehta's "This Land is Our Land"

If you are a thoughtful, decent human being at this time, you should be bobbing between waves of anger and panic, on the verge of drowning in a sea of insanity. Now, imagine sitting down to write a book. Likely, by the second or third page, your prose would resemble that of the author character, played by Jack Nicholson, in the 1980 horror movie The Shining. Suketu Mehta, through writing skill and knowledge, transformed these righteous emotions into This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto.

This book is being written in sorrow and rage -- as well as hope. I am angry: about the staggering global hypocrisy of the rich nations, having robbed the poor ones of their future, now arguing against a reverse movement of peoples -- not to invade and conquer and steal, but to work. Angry at the ecological devastation that has been visited upon the planet by the West, and which now demands that the poor nations stop emitting carbon dioxide. Angry at the depiction of people like my family and the other families that have continued in my family's path, because the had no other choice, as freeloaders, drug dealers, and rapists. I'm tired of apologizing for moving. These walls, these borders, between the peoples of the earth: they are of recent vintage, and they are flimsy. [pp. 8-9]