I’m in Oakland for the CR10 conference.  We flew in a day early and it was nice to have some time to chill before being at the conference and to get to think about the content of the dialog that Decarcerate Monroe County is participating in at the conference.  I went running this morning around Lake Merrit and it was really awesome.  I’ve realized recently that excercise really helps me feel more mentally sharp and less scatterbrained.  I love neighborhoods that have heavily trafficed public spaces and there were tons of people hanging out around the lake.  There just seemed to be all different kinds of people walking around and being active and enjoying the autum weather.  This was  a really different experience from when I went running on Defiance, Ohio tour in South Philly.  There, I felt so out of place, and I realized that, in many ways, even an activity that seems as accesible as running can be pretty classed.  I’ve ran, on and off, ever since I started running around my neighborhood in Boiling Springs to get ready for soccer season.  It feels startling to realize that something that you feel like you have a very intimate relationship with is really mediated by the places and cultures that you come from.  I guess this is a no-brainer, but it feels pretty profound when it feels like something that feels natural to you sets you apart from other people, or identifies you as an outsider.

Oakland has hella Asian people.  Being multiracial and growing up in a place where there were definitely not hella Asian people (or non-white people in general, for that matter), I know my exsperience is really different than a lot of the Asian people who live here, but somehow it’s still comforting.  At the supermarket, I paged through a book about Oakland’s Chinatown, and I thought about how many of the photos reminded me of photos of my grandparents.  It made me wonder what my dad’s life would have been like if he had grown up in a place less isolated from other Chinese Americans.

In the Bay Area, I think Chinese Americans have a huge and indelible role in the region’s history.   I tried to think about how Asians are perceived in Bloomington and didn’t come up with much.  I think they are largely assimilated into White culture or perceived as foreign students, having an akward and temporary relationship with the town.  One perception that came to mind out of nowhere though, was of an Asian family that owns a lot of property around town.  I don’t know how I get this feeling, and it’s hard to trace it to specific comments, but I just feel like there’s this expectation that, because the landlord isn’t white, he should be more down than white landlords.  Stingy, profiteering, condescending, or indifferent treatment that people seem to expect from your archetypical white “evil land owner” seems to be taken as a little bit worse from the Asian landlord.  This made me think about how whiteness is stereotyped and is, in many ways, is defined by a set of paradigms for success in our culture.  People of color seem to face additional barriers to this kind of success and also face additional criticism for aspiring to it or taking part in it.

punk as social force?

I feel like I’ve gained and reiterated a more critical perspective of perspective on punk in reading and responding to Daniel Traber’s L.A.’s “White Minority”: Punk and The Contradictions of Self-Marginalization.  Michael Eric Dyson spoke at IU this week and talked a lot about hip-hop as an amplification of culture at large (i.e. critics of misogynist rap lyrics failing to acknowledge the connection between those attitudes and cross-cultural ideas of power and masculinity).  Similarly, though not to say that these roles are mutually-exclusive, I think that punk is more often a reflection of culture-at-large than a provocative agent.  Right now, I’m slowly reading through Jackson Katz’s The Macho Paradox and he refers often to the history of the formation of the battered women’s and rape crisis movements.  He quotes Debby Tucker, cofounder of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence and volunteer in the first rape crisis center in Texas on the beginnings of those movements:

It all started with women learning to listen to each other.  The battered women’s and rape crisis movements drew strength from our understanding that what happened to individual women was not isolated.  At first we just wanted to help … later we began to hear about women’s experiences, and see commonalities and patterns not only in the abuses they suffered but in the responses to them by the police, the courts, the clergy.  We then began to use what we’d learned to confront men both at a personal and an institutional level.

So, the riot-grrl movement in the 90s, strongly connected to punk subculture, can be seen as a manifestation of a larger consciousness of women listening to women and organizing politically around the injustices articulated through those stories.

In the present, I can’t help but see the rising popularity of punk music that talks about connections to family  (e.g. The Devil in My Family by Ghost Mice, or Grandma Song by Defiance, Ohio) as a reflection of a generation whose parents are more involved in the lives of their children (e.g. “Helicopter Parents“) and whose children are more at ease with the connectedness of their parents.  Similarly, I see more subtle departures in ideology and identity between contemporary punks identifying with D.I.Y. practices and values and their parents, especially when compared with the extreme symbolic choices in lifestyle and fashion that punks in the 70s and 80s used to signify a separation from white, middle-class values.

In the case of riot-grrl and feminist organizing, one can see the positive integration of youth-culture and an important social movement.  In the case of changing perceptions of family in punk subculture you can see how different relationships with the idea of family each offer their own limitations, whether through overly symbolic identifications or what borders on conservatism.  In either case though, I come to the conclusion that punk wasn’t the movement or social force driving the connected dynamics.

Writing this is strange for me, because even though I increasingly recognize that punk media and subculture might not be a driving social force, I continue to contextualize other social dynamics through my own punk identity and my history through that identity.

who i am …

Who I am is a transcultural, multicultural, interracial, hybrid, bridging worlds, being. I am Hollee McGinnis also-known-as Lee Hwa Yeong. I have an Asian face, an Irish last name, a blond-haired mother.

But who I am is not just about who I know myself to be, but who I want to also be known as in this world. At its best, intercountry adoption demonstrates to me the greatness of our human spirits to love across race, nationality and culture. But I also know that it takes a lot more than just love to make a success; – it requires courage, honesty, and commitment.

This means we must be willing to talk about the hard stuff – the discrimination, inequalities, and prejudices that exist in the world. We must also be willing to change and challenge our societies so that the gift we give our children – adopted or not – besides the love and security of a permanent family is a world that values them for who they are and who they will be – regardless of race, nationality, culture or circumstance.

This is from a great NYT op-ed piece about intercountry, transracial adoption, race, and complicated identities.