Latina Muslims, Problematizing Self-Help, and the Status of Black Women

April 3, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. New Report Examines State of Black Women, Path Forward in ‘Post-Obama’ Era
Kenrya Rankin in Colorlines: “On Wednesday (March 29), the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s (NCBCP) Black Women’s Roundtable released its fourth annual report on the state of the 23 million Black women living in America. ‘Black Women in the U.S. 2017: Moving Our Agenda Forward in a Post-Obama Era‘ taps the opinions of more than 200,000 Black women to determine their ‘top equity priorities.’ The Roundtable analyzed data from available sources and talked to Black women across the country via polls, town hall meetings and forums. The biggest takeaways from the listening tour and polls, as identified by the Roundtable, are: […] Black communities in the South are hard hit by more than a decade of public policy assaults including deep cuts in public programs, but these impacts are often ignored by the press, politicians and even many progressive coalitions. For example, Black women and their families are more likely to be negatively affected by funding cuts because as workers, they are disproportionately more likely to be employed in the public sector. Attacks on public workers, public benefits and civil rights are all examples where Black women are disproportionately targeted. Although the South is hard hit by adverse public policies, it is also home to some of the most cutting edge, savvy organizing in the country.”

2. How This State Is Targeting Asian-Americans With Its Abortion Laws
Kimberly Yam in the Huffington Post: “The text of the act states that prior to performing an abortion, the doctor must ask the patient whether she knows the sex of the unborn child. If she does, the doctor will then inform her that sex selection abortion is prohibited. The physician will also need to get a hold of the woman’s medical records as they’re unable to go forth with the procedure ‘until reasonable time and effort is spent to obtain the medical records of the pregnant woman.’ Ultimately, the woman’s pregnancy history would be investigated. Still, it’s stories about infanticide and gender-based abortions in China and South Asia that lawmakers have used as evidence for the need for these sex-selective abortion bans, The Washington Post pointed out. The spread of misinformation puts women’s reproductive health in the Asian American community at stake, critics say. Just before the bill was signed, Sung Yeon Choimorrow, NAPAWF’s interim executive director, mentioned that the penalties could deter doctors from providing care patients need due to the threat of punishment.  She explained in a piece for Rewire that the ban ‘will turn Asian-American people seeking reproductive health services into suspects and reproductive health-care providers into investigators… It will further stigmatize their patients while creating additional barriers to care.'”

3. Self-Help Isn’t Enough for Native Women
Terese Mailhot in Indian Country Media Network: “This talk posed major problems when I needed support for mental health issues. I was depressed, and I knew some component of my sorrow was based in my culture, my identity and my community. I felt anchored to historical trauma, and dysfunction, and my history. I don’t think any white doctor understood me when I said that I was partially resigned to mourning, because I mourn for my ancestors, even when I celebrate them. It was, and is, bittersweet. I couldn’t think of one event in my life that I did not attach to a broader story that included my people. […] Those doctors acted like grief was a bad thing, a thing to fix. They acted like sadness, melancholy, or depression was unnatural, but I think it’s a very real reaction to injustice. In my treatment there was no component to deal with my history, or my mother’s, not in any way that acknowledged that historical trauma is real and tangible to us, but abstract to them. It is a physical pain, and a constant thing, just like the love we feel moment to moment—when we consider our hands and feet, and that we survived, thrived, even.”

4. Like an invisibility cloak, Latina Muslims find the hijab hides their ethnicity — from Latinos
Cindy Carcamo in the Los Angeles Times: “The Garden Grove resident had prepared herself for the suspicious looks and glares that would accompany her hijab — a powerful, conspicuous symbol of the Muslim faith. But Al Omari was surprised by another, unexpected consequence of wearing the headscarf: It had essentially erased her Mexican American identity for other Latinos. ‘As time went on, people were not seeing me as being Latina,’ the Tijuana-born Al Omari said. ‘They were seeing me as Arab.’ As a Latina Muslim, she’s among the fastest-growing ethnic group in Islam and at the intersection of three demographics spurned during President Trump’s nascent administration: women, Muslims and Mexicans. […] Though the exact number of Latino Muslims in the U.S. is difficult to gauge, some experts estimate there are 200,000 and about 90% of them are converts, according to a report authored by Stephanie Londono, a Florida International University professor and researcher who has studied the trend of Latinas converting to Islam.”

5. Frank Ocean Is Not Your Symbol
Michael Arceneaux in The Fader: “This mode of exaggerated praise was also bestowed upon the release of Ocean’s last album, 2016’s Blond. Headlines boasted of its ‘radical queerness,’ argued that it ‘redefines pop queerness,’ hailed it as a ‘queer masterpiece,’ and praised the album for how it ‘asks us to see queerness as the new normal.’ But these were all statements from white writers embellishing black sexuality. If the job of a critic is to find greater meaning and purpose in art, their job should also be one of clear sight and equanimity. Ascribing such specific and pointed labels and meaning into the work of an artist who purposely submerges himself in ambiguity only achieves the opposite. Well-meaning or not, a handful of the glowing reviews surrounding Ocean are more indicative of a perception about black people’s relationship with sexuality and gender than what he’s actually offering fans.”