Ten thousand somethings

The concept:  To install 100 Jesus heads in public venues.

For some years now, the artist  has used the emerging Jesus head as a symbol of our search for peace and self-realization.

Because of the popularity of Western thought, communion, prayer and other Western practices in mainstream culture, the Jesus image has evolved into a universal icon for peace, its cosmic dimension making it an archetypal symbol that crosses religious lines and reinforces its universality. Balancing between its secular face, popularized on T shirts, seen in garden shops, used by rock bands and trendy restaurants and its spiritual dimension the Jesus image, captures a growing societal longing for peace in an increasingly  fragmented world. Thus it is not surprising to see this iconic image appearing in numerous Eastern public art venues.

Yeah, it probably wouldn’t happen.  Because undoubtedly the image of decapitated Jesus heads scattered around the city would raise some opposition.

But decapitated heads of Buddha?  It’s a real thing in the real world.

At first I was a little intrigued by the project.  But the whole Eastern-Western exoticization really bugged me.  Also, every time I heard somebody say “Buddha head” it gave me a little start.  That’s a derogatory term* and I noticed I have a visceral reaction to it.  Especially coming from a non-Asian or a non-Buddhist.

I also find it disturbing that the eyes are downcast and the head is cut off at the nose, has no mouth and doesn’t appear to have ears.  If I were an art therapist, I’d speculate at length about the meaning:  passivity?  powerlessness?  being voiceless?  No arms, no legs, no body … just that “Buddha head.”  For a piece that is supposed to stimulate dialogue, it appears mute and motionless.  It doesn’t appear to be an “emerging” Buddha.  I read this piece of “art” less as a statement of the artist than as a statement about how Buddhists and Buddhism are viewed in the United States.

*explanation of this would take too long.  So I’ll leave it to somebody else.

It feels like cultural appropriation as well.  Yeah, the image of Buddha is used on t-shirts and is treated like kitsch in gardens and home decor.  The head’s desirability leads to a great deal of looting from temples.  Travel in Asia and the headless Buddha is a common sight.   So treating the image of Buddha’s head as a knickknack or even as an art installation (such as the Ten Thousand Somethings project) recalls continued theft of our cultural heritage.

Ultimately, I think what bothers me is the imputation of “Eastern” exoticization that supercedes and overwrites the true meaning in the majority culture.  It’s about somebody creating ten thousand something elses.  Or something.

Edited to add:  Somebody smarter is already on it:  Article 1  Article 2

Defining blackness

Being real, shining shoes, five-room apartments and a laundromat in a black neighborhood:

“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of shit and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the fuck? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter. I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up.”

Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois.


I think I need a category.

I was all excited when I saw the Bruce Lee weather forecast over at Angry Asian Man.  That is, until I saw the clothing selected for him:

The characters on the first shirt are too small to read (maybe 普京知something? is that Putin on the shirt?) but the second t-shirt reads something like “Taking application for a Japanese girl.”  And the fourth is a slanty-eyed girl with chopsticks sticking out of her hair.

Obama in the same weather conditions is wearing a “No War” shirt.


A meander.

Lately I’ve been reflecting again on the sanctuary of some spaces.  Sanctuary is, or should be, a place of refuge.  However, sometimes it’s not.

I always feel conflicted about “others” (and by this I generally mean white people) in spaces that were historically sanctuary.  On one hand, I do often feel that I should be welcoming to newcomers.  I know very well what it is like to be in a space where everybody is not like me.  Welcome to a large part of my life.  On the other hand, sometimes people just make it so darn hard.

It’s especially difficult if you belong to a religious community that others have exoticized.  There’s a certain amount of feeling like you’re in a fishbowl when all you want to be doing is living your life.  I remember what it was like to be taken to a Catholic church as a young scout.  Everything seemed so foreign and peculiar to me.  The holy water.  The kneeling and the crossing.  The latin.

But I see my eight-year-old gaping self in the faces of grown adults.  Worse yet, they want to take pictures.  Here are some natives in their ritual ceremonies! Continue reading

Because you can’t tell me what to do

And because being a “complete man” means being a white racist.

Racist mascot ‘Chief Illiniwek’ to dance again.  Note that the group paid $4500 to rent a place for him to dance.  And paid to have a costume made.

This suggests to me that maintaining racism has a value to racists.  The typical argument from the racist point of view is “What’s the big deal?”  Obviously, it is a big deal.


I started to write this long, thoughtful post about Halloween costumes.  You know, about respecting other cultures and not using other people as costumes and about cultural appropriation and co-optation.  But I realized that these are words that lack meaning and/or are interpreted in a manner that is acceptable to the listener.

What I really want to say is If you have any hesitation about your Halloween costume, just don’t do it.

Here’s the brief summary of my reasoning for the majority of white people:  You just don’t have the experience or the understanding to be able to critically examine what it means to wear a costume using an ethnicity or traditional dress or famous people of another race or laden with stereotypes like the geisha.

In other words, you just don’t get it. Continue reading

Get your own damn story.

Half-white and half Native American, she was 8 years old when she went to live with a black foster mom. Her two foster brothers became gang members at 12 and 13. Her foster sisters were born addicted to crack. Terrell* was killed by a gang member, NeeCee* committed suicide, and Margaret B. Jones lost contact with Taye and Nishia.

She witnessed shootings, drug deals and prostitutes being beaten by pimps. But somewhere along the way she straightened up, graduated from a university and wrote a book. And started a non-profit called International Brother/SisterHood.

Only none of it is true.

So when you read this touching and affecting memoir, don’t let those stereotypes slide into your brain.

*I read this and wondered if Margaret B. Jones watched Soul Food.

Gives ’round eyes’ new meaning

How is race portrayed and exemplified in popular culture? We see the odd example of the anthropomorphic Chinese bulldog from the Arthur television program. The aspects of “Chineseness” seem to be played out most visibly in the black hair and in the name of the character, “Mei Lin.”

Now the American Girl company has come out with an Asian doll. Of course, the Asian doll is the sidekick to the starring player, who is a white blonde. Continue reading