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HOWTO commit reverse racism

Lachlan writes, "My friend Aamer Rahman is an Australian comedian, one half of the duo Fear of a Brown Planet who makes race, religion and capitalism a central part of his comedy. Here he is, looking like Malcolm X, with a fantastic rant on reverse racism in his comedy."

Aamer Rahman (Fear of a Brown Planet) - Reverse Racism (Thanks, Lachlan!)

HOWTO improve your startup's chances

Anil Dash has got ten dynamite top tips for people hoping to run a successful startup, based on his wide experience:

1. Be raised with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. (Every tech billionaire I've ever spoken to has a toilet!)

2. Try to be born in a region that is politically and militarily stable.

3. Grow up with a family that is as steady and secure as possible.

4. Have access to at least a basic free education in core subjects.

5 Avoid being abused by family members, loved ones, friends or acquaintances during the formative years of your life.

The other five are just as great!

Ten Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Startup Success

Literacy privilege, or, why grammar nazis are dicks

Chandra, a "recovering grammar snob" who works as an English teacher, has a smashing trio of essays on Literacy Privilege -- the invisible privilege that accrues to people who have the facility to write well and clearly, and who have absorbed the "correct" conventions of English. I know I've been guilty of dismissing people because of their grammar/spelling errors (I'm sure I'll make several in this post, BTW, thanks to Muphry's Law), and I've also posted regrettable grammar-mockery in place of rebuttal at times. Even when I was doing it, I knew that it wasn't quite fair or rigorous but Chandra's critique is a good frame for understanding precisely what's wrong with the practice.

One important issue that Chandra doesn't touch on in her essays is the way that this works in languages where an official academy defines formal correctness -- French and German, for example. English is very much up for grabs, thanks to the absence of any final authority over its rules. In other cases, there is a technically correct way of doing things, and an incorrect way -- presumably, this exacerbates the problem.

Literacy Privilege Checklist:

I can easily and safely navigate my way around the city I live in because I understand all of the posted signs, warnings and notifications.
* I can make healthy and informed choices about the products I purchase because I can accurately read their labels and price tags.
* I can safely use pharmaceuticals prescribed to me without having to remember the doctor’s or pharmacist’s instructions because I can accurately read their labels.
* When required to visit doctors, hospitals, government agencies, banks, or legal offices, I do not have to invent excuses to bring paperwork home so that someone else can read it to me. If I live alone, I do not have to expose myself to judgement and ridicule by asking the doctor, nurse, agent, clerk, lawyer or other employee to read it to me.
* I can independently make informed medical, legal, political and financial decisions about myself and my family because I can read and understand important documents.
* I can be sure that my paycheques and bills are accurate because I can read them to check for errors.
* I can acquire a driver’s license and its associated freedoms because I am able to complete the written test for a learner’s permit.
* I can accept invitations to a restaurant without anxiety because I know I will be able to read the menu.

Literacy Privilege: How I Learned to Check Mine Instead of Making Fun of People’s Grammar on the Internet

Literacy Privilege, Part 2: But Wait… You’re an English Teacher

Literacy Privilege, Part 3: A Few Final Points Before I Let This Topic Die

(via MeFi)

Read the rest

Nasty men's rights ad banned

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints leveled against a men's rights group's controversial ad campaign.

Fathers4Justice's ad depicted a crying baby, his body emblazoned with perjoratives such as "pig" and "rapist", with text attacking Mumsnet, a popular online hangout for mothers of young children. According to Fathers4Justice, Mumsnet presided over an anti-male hate campaign as objectionable as homophobia and racism.

Read the rest

Unpacking privilege: straight white male is the lowest difficulty setting in the game of life

John Scalzi attempts to explain privilege using a video-game metaphor in "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is." It's a good metaphor in that is illuminates more than it obscures (the litmus test for metaphors).

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

Now, once you’ve selected the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, you still have to create a character, and how many points you get to start — and how they are apportioned — will make a difference. Initially the computer will tell you how many points you get and how they are divided up. If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you’re probably fine. Be aware the computer makes it difficult to start with more than 30 points; people on higher difficulty settings generally start with even fewer than that.

As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely, and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you. But because you’re playing on the “Straight White Male” setting, gaining points and leveling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting.

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is (Thanks, benchatt!)

Unpacking the invisible knapsack

Seven years ago, I read an article that completely changed the way I thought about what racism is, and the privileges I experience as an upper-middle class white person. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I'd like to share that article here.

I didn't know it at the time, but Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is kind of a classic of anti-racist thought. The basic idea goes something like this: Racism does not begin and end with Jim Crow and the Klan. It's not just about obvious exclusion and oppression. Fighting racism isn't just about overturning blatantly discriminatory laws or cracking down on hate crimes. Racism, unfortunately, can be a lot more subtle than that.

Racism is also about whole social systems that confer privileges on some people, and deny those privileges to others. What's more, if you're one of the privileged people, the privileges you receive—simply for looking the way you do—are often completely invisible to you. So invisible, in fact, that you don't even think of those things as privileges, and you don't notice how they've made your life easier and better. So, when people who don't have access to those privileges don't live as easily and well as you, it's easy to blame that on some inherent moral or intellectual failing, rather than on the system that denied them privileges you've received since birth.

In the United States, there are many privileges that I get, simply for being white, that are denied to people with different skin tones. That's racism. And this system leads otherwise kind and decent people to act and think in racist ways, without even realizing that's what they're doing. Acknowledging this privilege—realizing that subtle racism exists and that you benefit from it—is the first step privileged people need to take if they want to be effective allies of the un-privileged. Here's what McIntosh says:

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks. ... As far as I can see, my African American co-workers, friends and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions:

• I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
• I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
• When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
• Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability.
• I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
• I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

There is more where that came from, just read the whole piece. And yes, this idea does apply to other problems besides just racism. And yes, people who are privileged in some respects can be un-privileged in others, and vice versa. But acknowledging where you are privileged is important. Whether you're fighting racism, classicism, sexism, or any -ism.