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"Crazy Rich Asians" promotes the ongoing systematic erasure and oppression of Singapore minorities on a global screen.

By Sangeetha Thanapal After the trailer for "Crazy Rich Asians" was released, the internet went wild over it, especially those of us who care about representation and diversity. Based on Kevin Kwan’s book by the same title, the film about a Chinese American woman who travels to Singapore to meet the family of her Chinese Singaporean boyfriend, is being lauded as a huge win for people of color. At face value, the movie is a stepping-stone for more representation of Asians in Hollywood, signifying a milestone for diversity. Except that neither this movie, nor the novel it is based on, are even representative of Singapore. After gaining its independence in 1965, the tiny island-state of Singapore has gone on to introduce a set of economic and social policies that are often marvelled at all over the world. The country is touted as a model to follow, both for its economic prowess and its multicultural approach to racial harmony. However, underneath the façade of skyscrapers, is a country that has systematically disenfranchised its minorities. Chinese Singaporeans, at 77% of the population, are the vast majority of the nation and the population’s minorities are Malay and Indian people, who make up 15% and 7% respectively. There is also a sizeable populace of racialized labour from neighbouring countries with construction workers from South Asia and domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia. Racism against minorities is endemic in Singapore. Job advertisements frequently only ask for those who can speak in English and Mandarin, and even if minorities are able to do so, they are told that only ethnic Chinese are wanted. Muslim women in hijabs are kept out of certain civil service jobs because of their headwear. While there are police bans on speaking in Tamil, there are yearly tax-funded programs to promote speaking in Mandarin. Minority representations are rife with stereotypes and the idea of the quintessential Singapore girl is one that embodies only East Asian beauty standards. The country’s ruling power has stated that Malay-Muslims in Singapore cannot be trusted in the armed forces due to their divided loyalties between religion and state. It has further accused them of being unable to ‘integrate’ an irony considering that Malay people are considered the original inhabitants of the land. The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, holds views on genetics that would seem disconcertingly similar to eugenicist and white supremacist ideals, as he has touted the genetic superiority of the Chinese as stronger and hardier, with Indians not being as bright, but still better than the lazy, un-driven Malays. Chinese people wear Indians in ‘brown face’ and many elite public schools are reserved for them.
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In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves.

By Jodi M. Savage Comedian Mo’Nique recently asked viewers to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special. The Oscar-winning actress pointed out that they had offered Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle $20 million and Amy Schumer $11 million. Mo’Nique claimed that Netflix had offered her such a low amount due to gender and color discrimination. Instead of widespread support, she faced a lot of backlash on social media. People were engaged in the all too familiar sexist, racist, and self-hating tactics of making negative comments about her weight and skin color. Many hurled bombs at her that are frequently used to silence Black women and dismiss our humanity: loud, angry, no class, entitled. Others said she should be humble, prove herself, and just be grateful Netflix was willing to help revive her career. They also accused Mo’Nique of having a “bad attitude,” the classic trope for Black women who do not offer up cupcakes and smiles when criticizing how others treat them. It was the responses from Black people that I found most troubling. Black women were among her harshest critics. Maybe it’s hard to feel sympathy for Mo’Nique because most people can’t relate to an entertainer who wants more than $500,000 — but many of these criticisms also contained an unsettling subtext about who gets to assert worth in the workplace and acceptable ways of asserting one’s worth. To suggest that Mo’Nique should just be “grateful” and accept Netflix’s offer is to disregard her accomplishments, her sense of worth, and her right to demand that she be fairly compensated. It also ignores the very real pay disparities for Black women in and outside of Hollywood. In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves. Most Black women will never be offered $20 million or $500,000 to do anything. But Black women should care about Mo’Nique’s pay discrimination claims because, in many ways, we are all Mo’Nique. Whether we are actresses, secretaries, corporate executives, nurses, or restaurant workers, we are more likely to earn less than our white or male counterparts. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Black women are also the least likely to ask for raises among all demographic groups except Asians. We know how pay disparities play out in the workplace for regular folks: being lowballed in salary negotiations; getting hired and then realizing that people with similar or less responsibilities, experience or job titles earn more; being given additional responsibilities, but no salary increase; and not negotiating for a higher salary or raise.
Related: OCTAVIA SPENCER’S PAY GAP WIN IS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY

The story of Sarah Winchester and her unfinished mansion is one that would not exist without the violence of white colonialism.

In San Jose, there stands an extravagant mansion with hundreds of rooms that is still, technically, unfinished. It has secret rooms, hidden passageways, trap doors, windows in the floors, and staircases that lead to nowhere. The construction of this surreal, monstrous structure was commissioned by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Following the unexpected deaths of both her infant daughter and husband, Sarah visited a spiritual medium who gave her a grim answer to her existential questions. Sarah would forever be haunted by the vengeful spirits of those who had fallen victim to the Winchester repeating rifle, more popularly known as “The Gun That Won The West.” Slaughtered by the weapon that created the Winchester fortune and helped to ensure Manifest Destiny, the restless spirits seemed to be attacking the Winchester family in retaliation for the destruction that the rifle had caused during the American-Indian Wars. The spiritual medium convinced Sarah that this haunting was responsible for the deaths of her family, and that it would forever be attached to her. In an effort to deter the angry ghosts, she began to build the San Jose home in 1884 and the building continued until her death in 1922. It was believed that the maze-like layout and sheer size of the mansion would confuse the spirits and therefore protect her from their wrath. The story of Sarah Winchester and her unfinished mansion is one that would not exist without the violence of white colonialism, but I do not expect that to be contemplated much in the newest sensationalized version of her story, a biopic and horror drama starring Helen Mirren. Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built” is set for release Feb. 2. With this feature, Hollywood continues the tradition of sensationalizing and distorting the reality of Native American suffering in order to tell horror stories that center white characters. The same is true of narratives with Black ghosts that use racialized U.S. chattel slavery and antebellum violences. Rarely are the lives or deaths of Black and Native people explored in horror films unless they are done so in this way. These racialized violences are used as nothing more than plot devices, rather than as a means to interrogate and condemn the white supremacy and colonialism that necessitates them.
Related: NON-NATIVES ARE USING THIS TRIBAL LAW LOOPHOLE TO RAPE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

Let’s be clear: Jessica Chastain helping Octavia Spencer is not the biggest story here.

By Candice Frederick When I attended the fantastic “Women Breaking Barriers” panel at Sundance Film Festival recently, I wondered if a very pivotal moment in the conversation that centered on equality, the #MeToo movement, and creating spaces for women of power in Hollywood would even be mentioned in mainstream publications. Why? Because the moment came from a black woman, Oscar-winning actress and friend in my head Octavia Spencer, who was amid a conversation about the much-discussed pay gap in Hollywood when she interrupted the status quo to simply state, “If we’re going to talk about the pay gap, we have to bring women of color into the conversation.” Mic drop. I tweeted about it at the time, and it barely got any traction, which I thought was interesting but not unsurprising. All the conversations and think pieces I’ve read about the pay gap in Hollywood have failed to mention that there’s not only a wide difference between men and women’s salaries but also between white and non-white actresses. https://twitter.com/ReelTalker/status/954843747291836416 Because it seems to be easier to set white women’s challenges as the default for all women in Hollywood, rather than acknowledge any nuance particularly when it comes to race. But, flash forward nearly a week afterward and it was finally covered by mainstream media, and in fact it has become the lead story from the panel. Though, in a way that merely glazes over the main issue. Being one of the very few women of color journalists in the room listening to Spencer as she followed this statement with the now famous story of how her friend Jessica Chastain “walked the walk” to help her now earn 5 times her salary was significant. Spencer was emotional, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I too was and remain moved by Chastain’s selflessness and diligence to fight against the status quo in Hollywood even though it was not something that directly impacted her. To Spencer’s own admission, Chastain didn’t even know this was an issue. So, bravo. That is what an actual ally looks like. But let’s be clear: Chastain helping Spencer is not the biggest story here. Spencer spoke out about a singular issue affecting women of color in a very white feminist space that until that point offered a very broad perspective about some of the important issues that women face in Hollywood. It was a poignant pivot in front of a mostly white crowd that was left virtually silent as she told her story. That is nothing to sneeze over. Perhaps only if you have ever been a woman of color in a white space speaking out about a very specific issue about which most of the room cannot fathom, could you understand how boss this was. Spencer didn’t sound angry (though she would have had every right to be). She didn’t sound sad. She was very matter-of-fact about it, determined to express something that to me and many other women of color is our everyday as we navigate white supremacy. And it is usually ignored, discarded, and undervalued in general feminist dialogue.
Related: EXCLUDING DEE REES DURING AWARDS SEASON IS PEAK WHITE FEMINISM

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