An exploration of the physical frontiers that define race in America

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Another angle on the media’s response to the Boston bombing suspects’ heritage

Interview conducted at the scene of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 (Photo Credit: Flickr user thebudman623 via Creative Commons License)

Interview conducted at the scene of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 (Photo Credit: Flickr user thebudman623 via Creative Commons License)

Shortly after I published my own post on the media response to Boston bombing suspects’ Muslim heritage, another article about the suspects’ background began to go viral. The article, written by Sarah Kendzior for Al Jazeera, focuses in on the media’s treatment of the Tsarnaev brothers’ Chechen heritage.

First, let’s start with a little background. The two bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are of Chechen descent – their family comes from the Chechnya region of southern Russia, located in the Caucasus mountains. The region tried to gain independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, during the communist state’s collapse. Rebel groups from the area waged a bloody battle against the Russian army in this effort, and the region remains unstable and (according to the US and Russian governments) susceptible to terrorist influences to this day. Continue reading


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The Boston Marathon bombing and the media’s treatment of the ‘Muslim community’

Boston Marathon Bombing

An overhead image of the scene immediately after the Boston Marathon bombing (Photo Credit: Aaron Tang via Creative Commons License)

It’s certainly hard to believe, but it has only been a week since the horrific Boston Marathon bombing that took place on Monday, April 15. Maybe that’s because the story has been covered so exhaustively by everyone from surprisingly accurate random Twitter users to disturbingly inaccurate media conglomerates. Of the many story lines that emerged from this senseless tragedy – the suspects’ brazen attempted escape, the resiliency of the city of Boston, the heroism of the first-responders – the storytellers themselves also became part of the spotlight.

But among those many story lines was also the fascination with the suspects’ background and heritage. Namely, as this Fox News headline so poignantly opines, the fact that both suspects were Muslim extremists. This fact, once it became widely known, added yet another element of extreme interest for the 24-hour news cycle to dive into.

Immediately, articles began exploring the suspects’ heritage as immigrants from the separatist Chechnya region of Russia, their association with other Islamic extremists, and even their potential connections to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But more notably, several articles written after the suspects’ identities had been revealed took into account the thoughts and opinions of the ‘Muslim community’. Continue reading

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Wide swath of opinion on Oakland’s ongoing transformation


An early Occupy Oakland meeting held on October 27,2011 (Photo Credit: Hartford & Strong via Creative Commons License)

The Occupy Wall Street movement began in September 2011 in New York City, and gained nationwide and worldwide support over the following months. As a UC Berkeley student, I had a front row seat to one of the movement’s active branches. Weekly Occupy protests took hold of our campus and a row of tents lined our famous Sproul Plaza.

Berkeley may be known for being radical, but the real Occupy action took place just a few miles down Piedmont Avenue in the city of Oakland. This past summer, Jonathan Mahler of The New York Times chronicled Oakland’s position as the final frontier of the Occupy movement. Occupy Oakland raged on well into the summer, with pockets of both organized and organic protest popping up all over the city long after the movement had died in New York and Berkeley. Continue reading

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Chaos at CPAC panel on reignites discussion about American spatial and racial history

This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual event for conservative politicians and activists, features several prominent Republican speakers and discourse on touchstone political issues. Among that discourse was a panel-based event called: “Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You’re Not One?”

The title of the event suggests that it could cover some controversial ground. But the event ultimately reached national-news-levels of controversy when one of the event’s speakers, K. Carl Smith of the Frederick Douglass Republicans, was asked a series of questions by conference-goer Scott Terry. You can see the exchange in the video above. ThinkProgress described the scene as such: Continue reading

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Huffington Post’s sensationalized headlines undermine writers’ attempts at objectivity

The Huffington Post

The front page of The Huffington Post (Photo Credit: Drew Geraets via Creative Commons License)

For this post, I will be straying away slightly from my typical discussion of race and space to focus on the roles of media in propagating that discourse.

In particular, I have found that The Huffington Post hosts some of the most comprehensive commentary on issues of race and space across the spectrum of American media. The site is home to a variety of affinity sections, including ‘Black Voices‘ and ‘Latino Voices‘, which offer news and op/ed articles that come from and cater to particular minority groups. The way these sites curate content make them great for finding articles that pertain to issues of race and space.

The Huffington Post was first created with a liberal audience in mind, intended as the left-leaning answer to the Drudge Report, a conservative news-and-commentary site. Among the influences that the Drudge Report had on The Huffington Post is the use of large-print, sensationalized headlines, which are meant to take news stories and frame them for the intended audience.

So, where The New York Times might strive to serve you a headline that tells you the basic, essential information you are looking for from a news article, a Huffington Post headline is intended to elicit some sort of reaction from you, depending on your political leanings. The headline below is a great example. Continue reading

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Examining notions of race in our own backyards

Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival (Photo Credit: David Shankbone via Creative Commons License)

Back in February, Academy-Award winning actor Forest Whitaker was publicly frisked at an upscale New York City deli after being falsely accused of shoplifting. The event became national news in light of commentary that Whitaker’s race played a role in the employee’s decision to frisk him.

This past week, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times on the topic. In the article, Coates notes: “In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs.” Coates points to the Whitaker story, however, as an example of the type of systematic racism that is propagated by even the most sincere, ostensible ‘nice’ people. His take on the matter is colored by his extensive experience with the deli, which is in his neighborhood and is one of his favorites. Continue reading

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UC Berkeley professor Keith Feldman’s thoughts on race and space, the post-racial imaginary, and the accessibility of race theory

Keith Feldman

Keith Feldman, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley (Photo Credit: Keith Feldman)

Keith Feldman‘s fifth-floor Barrows Hall office is slotted away among countless professorial offices, distinguished only by the stoic “Keith P. Feldman” emblazoned on his door. But a look inside the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies professor’s office reveals a workspace that seemingly embodies the Japanese design principle of wabi-sabi. The personal space he has carved out amongst the Barrows milieu is orderly, simple, impermanent, and framed by a picture-perfect view of Berkeley’s famous Campanile. It is clear that this man knows how to pick his space.

It became clear over the course of our 30-minute talk that Feldman knows how to analyze space, too. His passion within the vast field of Ethnic Studies is linked to constructions of culture and space – that is, how world-scale culture influences our perception of current geopolitical arrangements. Continue reading