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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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

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Acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington

WEB Du Bois

Portrait of WEB Du Bois
(Photo Credit: National Portrait Gallery via PD-Art)

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom of 1963, the event that spurred Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. It is widely considered to be one of the largest human rights demonstrations in U.S. history, and is seen as an important precursor to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The anniversary will be commemorated in many ways over the course of the year, and much of the remembrance will dwell on Dr. King’s poignant speech at the event (and rightfully so). In a recent op-ed for Al Jazeera, however, UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Professor Keith Feldman used the lens of the March on Washington’s anniversary to examine the legacy of another legend of the civil rights movement: WEB Du Bois. Continue reading