I bought The New York Times on Sunday for the first time in years this weekend. When I was growing up, we had a subscription and my father would insist that I and my siblings read the Week In Review, which, of course we didn’t, but the few times I tried I had no idea what any of it meant. I lugged the stack to a diner for a little self-date with some waffles and coffee. These were 4 of 5 of the front page headlines, reading left to right, above the fold to below the fold:
Wall St. Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers. This article about stay-at-home dads of White Fortune 500 women executives makes no mention of race, instead, drops mentions of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, two of the most irrelevant American iconographies for poor, working class, or even middle class women of color. No mention of the millions of largely women of color domestic workers from the U.S. and global south who have been essential for White advancement and advantage. No explicit mention of sexism or patriarchy as deeply embedded structural phenomenon that are required within a capitalism.
Bank Tracked Business Linked to China Hiring. Um, what? Why is The New York Times obsessed with investigating nepotistic hiring of U.S. financial giants like JP Morgan Chase in China? Isn’t insider hiring what formerly slave-trading companies like JP Morgan Chase have done within the 1%, like, forever? Why are they obsessed with it when it happens thousands of miles away? Oh right, because it’s China
Musicals Are Hot Off Broadway (by 7,000 Miles). This article is about how much KOREANS LOVE AMERICA AND MUSICALS! Yes, I’m aware that my tone is increasingly sarcastic, but I hope you’ll give me a break. The new Korean=Good Guys, Chinese=Bad Guys U.S. corporate media thingie is a flashback to, say, over a century of White supremacist/anti-Asian propaganda in service of U.S. imperialism in Asia. These paradigms translate into immigration policies and racist perceptions of Asian Americans. Here, journalist Patrick Healy speaks of Korea’s love of American and European musicals (amounting to “$300 million this year and a frenzy of licensing deals”) as almost a cute, biological thing. Hey Patrick: It’s called neocolonialism. First came the missionaries, then came the U.S. military and their commercial camptown sex industries, then the total rupture of future Korean political unity as orchestrated by the U.S. and Russia, then came all the U.S. multinationals, then the Free Trade Agreement, bringing us to this moment–a Korean popular culture steeped in pro-America, American Dream, White supremacy Kool-Aid. Please remember to mention all the above in the Times’ inevitable next hundred articles about Korea as the U.S.’ cute younger sibling
In Nation Remade, Equality Is Still Elusive. Just days after Nelson Mandela’s passing, the NY Times runs an article about persisting racial inequity in South Africa. Here we have the framing of racism as something that happens Over There. This was particularly interesting to me as the article appears right next to the article on Korea’s love of all things American. A photo of Korean actors in a Seoul production of Wicked is placed right next to a photo of a poor black family in front of a shanty residence in Soweto. This is the international reproduction of the assimilable Asian model minority vs. the unassimilable African poor, the fundamental, white supremacist colonial logic that persists in cross-racial perceptions between African Americans and Asian Americans to this day. White supremacy is called out on the front page of the NYT only as it occurs on the other side of the globe. Mandela’s peaceful, Gandhi-esque “giving birth to a rainbow nation” is not enough in the face of corruption, a ruling White minority and systemic poverty Over There. Ironically, the layout of the front page of the Sunday New York Times perfectly replicates the racial triangulation diagram developed by Claire Jean Kim within which, on an X axis of superiority to inferiority and a Y axis of foreign to insider, Whites are positioned as the most superior and insider, Blacks as most inferior to Whites but the same degree of insider as them, and Asians as inferior to Whites and superior to Blacks but the most foreign–the formula for virtually all media representations involving all three groups, i.e. Olympus Has Fallen, Arrested Development, Rising Sun, etc. and etc.
One white man is worth two Chinamen; that one Chinaman is worth two Negroes, and that one Negro is worth two tramps. –C.V. Stuart, Sonoma, CA farmer, Constitutional Convention, 1879
Other headlines were fascinating. I’m intrigued by the enthusiastic international coverage of pro-European Union activism in Ukraine and the pervasive obscurement of American dissent by social justice movements, and the Orientalist images of turban-clad Bedouins who are “seething” and “complaining” about being displaced in an act of state violence by the Israeli government in Jerusalem, who is just looking to “develop” and make things “better” with “legal homes” for these archaic wandering people in the Negev desert.
Hope you media literacy nerds enjoyed reading this. At least now I know that reading The New York Times is not a great way to unwind on a Sunday morning.