May 21, 2013
Truthdig Radio: Meltdown in Our Casino Economy
Posted on Apr 21, 2011
Truthdig Radio airs every Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Los Angeles on 90.7 KPFK. If you can’t listen live, starting on Wednesday nights look for the podcast and transcript of each week’s show right here on Truthdig.
In this week’s episode, Marcia Dawkins talks multiracial politics; Avi Chomsky covers the immigration debate; Timothy Canova discusses the economic meltdown in our casino economy; Howie Stier investigates the Green Jello House in Hollywood; and Matthew Specktor introduces the newly launched Los Angeles Review of Books.
Click to listen to the show, or continue reading the full transcript below.
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Kasia Anderson: [On Truthdig Radio this week: Avi Chomsky on the immigration debate;] Chapman University law professor Timothy Canova on the economic meltdown in our casino economy; Howie Stier on a holdout of bohemian life in Hollywood; and author and senior editor of the newly launched L.A. Review of Books, Matthew Specktor, discussing book reviews in the 21st century. But first, let’s cut to Dr. Marcia Dawkins on a particular article she found online this week that she wanted to discuss with us.
Marcia Dawkins: Hi, Kasia.
Kasia Anderson: So, I have, I’ve taken a close look at this article, and, you know, I know you’re a fairly practical person, and you don’t react to just everything that crosses your path in the way of racial politics. So what was it about this particular piece that got you going?
Marcia Dawkins: Well, this particular piece—I should say, we’re talking about an article I found on CNN.com yesterday that was talking about a multiracial family and how they came together and found their way apart, in some instances, over time. I mean, I saw it … in one way, on first reading it, it was … it was a great article. But then when I sat back and thought about it, I realized what was being said might not be so great at all, and so I thought it might be worth talking about.
Kasia Anderson: So they’re talking about a couple different generations of a multiracial family. Where did you start seeing the problem in the way that this was being covered and reported about?
Marcia Dawkins: Well, I started—well, I should say, the first thing that did stand out to me was a very good thing, in terms of saying that multiracial identities have been here for a long time. And that’s one of the things that I talk about in my book “Things Said in Passing.” But I think one of the things that the article doesn’t do well, and where it started going wrong, was when it got to today’s generation, because it showed a couple of things: one, that today’s generation, while it may be calling itself multiracial, which is different than what the older generations have done, isn’t necessarily thinking about race and racism any differently than older generations have done. And so what the article, I think, is trying to show us is that a shift is happening that really isn’t quite accurate yet.
Kasia AndersonAnd, so, is this something that might be considered like a myth of the post-racial America?
Marcia Dawkins: Absolutely. And this you can see across a range of media outlets. So you’ve got Allure magazine talking about how multiracials are, you know, the sign of the … the post-racial future is here, and it’s beautiful, too; you’ve got Time magazine telling us that multiracial people are more psychologically well-adjusted than monoracials; you’ve got The New York Times and L.A. Times filled with Op-Eds telling us how, naturally, multiracial people are the end of racism. I call it, they have the “biological booster shot,” I guess, as a result of being parts of these families. And this discourse is sounding wonderful, but not really helpful in terms of everyday structural inequalities and problems that people are facing in their lives.
Kasia Anderson: And the article mentions the family in question as a “rainbow family.” Can you talk a little bit about the types of language that’s used to describe multiracial families, and how some of that might suggest what you’re getting at here in terms of a post-racial fallacy?
Marcia Dawkins: Absolutely. I mean, so we have these words like beauty, happiness, well-adjustment, rainbow to give us this feeling that, you know, we’ve just kind of entered the Wizard of Oz and that everything is wonderful. But unfortunately when we pull back that curtain, what we find are really a host of conflicts that I think are, some of them are hinted at in that article. For instance, how multiracial marriages have a higher divorce rate than marriages that are not among interracial partners, and how particular interracial pairings get together more or less than others. So the census reveals that Asian-American women and white men get together the most in terms of marriage and sustainable families, but African-Americans and white Americans get together and stay together the least. So there really is not as much racial healing and “rainbow” sentiment as we might like to think.
Kasia Anderson: Well, just to push you a little bit on that, what’s really at stake here? I mean, why does it matter for you when you read an article like this and you think, OK, great, this is not really getting at a reality and it’s glossing over certain things. I mean, what … why does that matter to someone in the real world, off, you know, offline from looking on the Internet?
Marcia Dawkins: Absolutely, thank you for asking that question. I think this matters because I think we have the right feeling, this desire to want to have racial progress and to overcome what has been a painful history in many respects. But what this desire masks are continuing structural inequalities. And I think, again, it overstates the acceptance of mixed-race unions. So what we see is that less than 3 percent of our society is being used to tell us that we’ve achieved something that the numbers really don’t support. And as long as we think that things are better, we won’t take time to dig deeper beneath appearances, these rainbows, and look at things like unemployment, crime, health, welfare, education, that all lend to racial progress.
Kasia Anderson: And, yeah, I’m looking at the name of the article on CNN, and it’s “Neither Black nor White.” So that kind of suggests an in-between space. Ah, does that suggest to you that it’s sort of, it’s OK to be kind of dropped in between these categories, and they’re making it work somehow, or how does that come across to you?
Marcia Dawkins: Well, it comes across to me as beige. I like to call it beige [Laughter], neither black nor white but beige, first of all. And I think the great thing about being beige is that, yes, it is calling for a differentiation. But I think the bad thing about falling for beige is that it’s taking us from a way of thinking about race that is certainly limiting, in terms of black and white, but not really changing it, right? It’s just adding a third category that increases the distance, then, between black and white. So we’re not really making any change; we’re just further stratifying things, and I think that should be important to everybody today.
Kasia Anderson: Well, as someone who’s got an eye on culture and also on the media, and as a rhetoric specialist, what would you say would be a more accurate or maybe responsible way to characterize these families and the sort of racial reality that’s going on right now, in terms of how it’s portrayed in the media?
Marcia Dawkins: Well, I think that one of the things we need to do is just report things accurately. So while we can say that certainly there are success stories, and there might be plenty of them, that that’s only part of the story. And so I think telling the whole story, talking about multiracial identities that aren’t quite as rainbow and delicious—like the case of Leo Felton, who I talk about in my book, who is a multiracial person who became a white supremacist and domestic terrorist. And he was very angry about, and confused about, being multiracial. And he’s not the only one. This goes back to World War II, at least in our country, when you think about this. So as long as we can tell the whole story—as long as the rainbow was one part of the story that got equal play to the Leo Feltons of the world—then I think we would be just more truthful and accurate about where we are today.
Kasia Anderson: And do you think—this might be speculative, of course—but do you think some of this, maybe, oversights about certain aspects of multiracial identity on the media’s part might have to do with kind of the New York/L.A. phenomenon, not really—media types not necessarily always having a real read on what’s going on in other pats of the country, and [the] reality of life on the ground there?
Marcia Dawkins: Absolutely. And I think a lack of real reality, being a New Yorker and an L.A. person myself, I think we like to think of those places as less segregated than they really are. But as a result of the census, we see that New York is the No. 2 most segregated city, and L.A. is No. 10. So it’s not even existing happily even in those places. And then we’re reporting about the South—for instance, Mississippi, which had a reputation for being one of our most racist and difficult states, as having this humongous 32 percent surge in multiracial identities—excuse me, it was actually a 62 percent surge—which really brings that population up to 1 percent of Mississippi’s overall population. So it’s about, again, telling the whole story, and not just telling a part of it because we have this understandable desire to have racial progress without really doing the work of racial reconciliation.
Kasia Anderson: And—this is kind of a huge question to try to end with, but considering your book is about passing—it’s called “Things Said in Passing”—“passing” is something that we usually, or at least I usually think of in terms of, like, an antiquated term in a way. I know that it still goes on, of course, and it still is a day-to-day reality for a lot of people, but the term itself—you think of, you know, narratives from the ’50s, and biracial movie stars, or something. What do you think of the term passing in a 21st century context?
Marcia Dawkins: I think of a lot of things. One of the main things I talk about in my book is to think about it in terms of, for instance, identity theft. So we could have mobile technologies, for instance—The Wall Street Journal just covered this at the end of 2010; mobile technologies, like Angry Birds and certain applications for Facebook and MySpace—passing as entertainment in order to gather information about our identities. We could have this conversation in terms of immigration and policies that are going on in that respect. We could talk about WikiLeaks. So, you know, it’s gone from just this individual phenomenon of keeping a secret—whether it’s about race, gender, nationality, sexuality, religion—to becoming this real societal phenomenon that’s happening on a host of levels, that I think is being less talked about. So for the 21st century, passing is in many respects more sophisticated and more technological.
Kasia Anderson: Well, I’ll look forward to reading more about it. When is the book coming out?
Marcia Dawkins: Thanks. It will be out by the end of this year.
Kasia Anderson: OK. Well, thank you so much. This is Dr. Marcia Dawkins, author of “Things Said in Passing,” talking with me, Kasia Anderson, the associate editor at Truthdig. Thanks for your time, Dr. Dawkins.
Marcia Dawkins: Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure, as always.
Kasia Anderson: And Truthdig Radio will be right back.
Peter Scheer: Welcome back to Truthdig Radio. I’m Peter Scheer with Josh Scheer. We’re speaking with Avi Chomsky, a professor and the coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State College in Massachusetts, and the author of “They Take Our Jobs,” amongst other books. Thanks for joining us.
Avi Chomsky: It’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Peter Scheer: So, we’ve kind of been on a roller coaster with the immigration debate. It swells, it wanes—if I can mix clichés there. [Laughter] But, you know, we have a lot of heat around the issue. But for the people that it affects most directly, this is a constant issue, and they’re sort of the victims of the political calendar, aren’t they?
Avi Chomsky: Mm-hmm.
Peter Scheer: Where do we stand now?
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