June 21, 2010

The Eternal Obsession

From today's Washington Post:

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 21, 2010 

As a snapshot of ballet in this country, the six-day, nine-company Ballet Across America series at the Kennedy Center, which concluded Sunday, offered some good news but little revelation. The primary take-away is that whether you're talking Memphis or Tulsa, Seattle or Charlotte, there's an impressively high level of skill among the nation's ballet dancers.

The companies are also overwhelmingly white and dotted with Europeans -- as they have always been. Diversity in ballet remains a serious problem for the small companies as well as the large, on the coasts as well as in the heartland. In the 21st century, we can put a black man in the White House, but as last week's survey shows, we can't put a black ballerina in the Opera House. Clearly, not enough work is being done to foster African American dancers. But with public money in their coffers, ballet companies -- and the local, state and federal funders -- need to make equal opportunity in the dancer ranks a priority. 

I'm always struck by how white people are constantly admonishing each other that they must lure more blacks into difficult, low-paying, low chance of success careers. Being a ballerina, which typically demands you go pro out of high school and where you'll probably be physically washed up before you hit 30, is the kind of career that shouldn't be shoved on girls with no family money to back them up.

The type of middle class African-American girl who would be interested in being a ballerina rather than,  say, a video vixen generally already has a lot of options in life, including going to college.

What are the career paths for ballerinas after 30? Basically, two: opening a ballet studio to teach upscale little girls or marriage, ideally to a rich man needing a lovely, graceful wife and hostess. Both require being comfortable in upscale networks. Marriage is particularly tricky for retired ballerinas since most men who have ever paid attention to them dancing are either gay or are married and attend ballets with their wife and daughters.

So, ballerinas need to be plugged into social networks where rich ladies stay on the lookout for, say, a fellow who has just made partner at her husband's law firm who now needs a wife. You can imagine how this would be harder for blacks, but white people never stop to put themselves into the shoes (or slippers) of their intended affirmative action beneficiaries.

85 comments:

dearieme said...

You cruel, cold-hearted white man, you.

Anonymous said...

Funny how Jews are conspicuously silent about diversity when it is they who are over-represented in a given field.

Ms. Kaufman, how about a lecture about the lack of diversity in YOUR chosen profession ?

Anonymous said...

The primary take-away is that whether you're talking Memphis or Tulsa, Seattle or Charlotte, there's an impressively high level of skill among the nation's ballet dancers.


The quality of dancers across the US varies hugely. The PNB company in Seattle has remarkably good male dancers but seems to be picking bad female dancers on purpose, as well as having costumes designed for them that pull off the seemingly impossible feat of making a ballet dancer look fat. Ballet in the Carolinas is a sad joke. I saw dancers in the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh *crash into each other.* The good companies are good like you'd expect, the bad companies are not displaying any "impressively high level of skill."

And as far as the claims in the article, ALL AMERICAN BALLET COMPANIES ARE FREAKISHLY DIVERSE. A black girl is cast as Clara whenever possible. Female dancers skew a little whiter (maybe because of the preponderance of Eastern Europeans?) but male dancers, across the country, are a diversity freaking rainbow.

Zachariah Wiedeman said...

(1) The fact that there are few blacks "going pro" in ballet is by no means an indicator that there is somehow less opportunities for blacks or any type of racial discrimination in ballet. It could just as easily mean that culturally, among blacks, they have more sense than to pursue such a "career."

(2) I love how the author compares electing a black man president to "putting a black ballerina in the Opera House." Unlike in politics, success in most careers is often determined by one's determination to pursue said career. Are very many blacks even pursuing ballet? Again, this begs the question - is this due to a lack of opportunity, or discrimination, or are there other factors involved?

(3) Disgustingly enough, this author concludes that rather than let people make their own choices about what they want to do, the fact that there are very few black ballerinas dancing professionally means it is our responsibility to "put" them there. So, how does she propose we do this? Kidnap little black children who show even the slightest talent for dance and force them to foster that talent in a ballet work camp?

There are very few whites in the NBA compared to blacks - especially when you consider the ratio of whites to blacks in the US. According to Sarah Kaufman, this is a serious problem and this is obviously a sign of the lack of opportunities for whites to play basketball. Apparently we need to work hard to put more whites into the NBA.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Who gives a wrinkled rat's arse about diversity in ballet, tap-dancing, hip-hop, or hula dancing? These are micro-niches that tend to be filled by certain ethnic groups, like New York flower shops (Greek) or LA trash-hauling (historically Armenian and White Russian).

So long as there is no rule excluding any group per se ("Iranians can't audition here"), no harm, no foul. Or should we start limiting the number of Dominicans in baseball?

Anonymous said...

"Being a ballerina, which typically demands you go pro out of high school and where you'll probably be physically washed up before you hit 30, is the kind of career that shouldn't be shoved on girls with no family money to back them up."

It's a disaster for boys, too. I knew someone who danced for the Joffrey Ballet when he was in his 20's. By the time he was 32, he developed career ending foot injuries requiring ongoing medical care.

He became a dog groomer. I'm guessing he was a poof. It's especially sad to end up poor, gay, and over 30, eking out a living as a pet groomer, pool cleaner, or an associate in the Home Depot gardening department:

"Lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely,
I have nobody,
For my own
I'm so lonely, ..."

Etc.

Whiskey said...

A few ex-ballerinas go into acting. Andrea Parker of the Pretender turned pro ballerina at 16, blew out her knee at 19, and tended bar while doing acting gigs around LA. Her big break was as one of the sponge nurses in that episode of Seinfeld.

But yes, its a tough life.

OneSTDV said...

How far can they take this whole diversity idea.

A few years back, it was not enough diversity for librarians. Seriously:

http://blog.vdare.com/archives/2008/07/18/newspaper-sentence-of-the-dayincreasing-the-number-of-black-male-librarians-has-become-a-hot-topic/

What other obscure jobs will be next? I personally can't wait; it's already unaware self-satire.

kritisk_borger said...

I wonder when they’ll start to ‘diversify’ cross country skiing and all the other winter sports I love to watch, and I wonder how this will be accomplished if black people simply aren’t rushing to join any of the organised skiing clubs? Will the authorities eventually become so desperate that they’ll start to pay black kids hefty salaries in an effort to lure them to take up the sport?

The black regime in South Africa introduced affirmative actions for many of the national sporting teams in that country.
The South African cricket and rugby teams, which used to be predominately white, were eventually forced to select black players, but strangely enough not the South African football team which is still to this day is predominantly black.

Who knows maybe this is the path that western countries will take in an effort to ‘diversify’ the ‘evil white’ sports and combat ‘bigotry and racism’?

Anonymous said...

Is that how rich people get married?

What loathsome people.

l said...

It's not just ballet. It's opera. It's symphony. It's the visual arts. The arts are overwhelmingly dominated by by whites. Funny, but I don't think I've ever heard a liberal suggest that Federal grant money be withheld until this blatant racism is quashed.

Tom Regan said...

The other thought that never occurs to the author is: perhaps blacks are not that interested in ballet.
Why would they be? The world of ballet, opera, classical music etc is very much white culture, with a sub-culture of Asians who are attracted to fields that emphasise perfection via obsessional practice and dedication. It is axiomatic that not many blacks would be interested in it, the same way that whites are relatively less interested in ghetto rap.
Its another example of the unwitting racial imperialism of the anti-racist bien pensants. They feel that blacks should be more interested in white culture and white interests, then peculiarly draw the conclusion that it is somehow white people's fault if they're not.

robert61 said...

For affirmative action "beneficiaries", read "victims".

Anonymous said...

2 points:

blacks look ridiculous in the corps de ballet because they stand out

black females tend to have a large body and they tend to be homely--NOT ballerina material

Anonymous said...

She's trying to point out how good a person she is by noticing that there aren't black people at the opera. Not too subtly.

More subtly she is also pointing out how much more cultured she is than black people because she knows about opera.

The odds she really wants to see rap fans at the next showing of Puccini (or whatever): less than 0.

Good work on her part. This is some exceptional white guilt gymnastics. Gonna be hard to top.

Anonymous said...

So that's where I can find a wife...

rob said...

Encouraging black women to go into any field where the big payoff is the possibility of marrying well is cruel to the point of hilarity.

Chief Seattle said...

The more inane articles like this the more the diversity racket dilutes its power. If even Jesse Jackson wouldn't agree with your race baiting you've pretty much lost the argument right there.

C. Van Carter said...

"Diversity in ballet remains a serious problem"

It's almost as serious as the lack of women and blacks in auto racing!

Anonymous said...

it also takes an incredible amount of long term discipline - something i just don't see many black females doing - when everyone else lowers the bar via affirmative action.

Also unlike say, tennis (williams sisters) you must be athletic and GRACEFUL..

ricpic said...

Calling all ethereal blacks!

Anonymous said...

I can't help but notice how Jews are always S***-disturbing like this. How does the lack of blacks in ballet imply some conspiratorial "racism" that must be stopped? The NBA is 78% black. Does the low representation of Whites there imply "racism"? I don't think so. What about the huge over-representation of Jews in Hollywood? Or as lawyers? Or on Capitol hill? Is this some Jewish conspiracy Kaufman?

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't there be a rule - only black people should be allowed to complain about lack of blacks in (opera/ballet/etc)? Why should Ms. Kaufman care? Maybe she has a patronizing, condescending attitude towards African Americans? She feels like it's her job to defend them cause they can't do it themselves?

Anonymous said...

Ballet was developed to complement the physiques and physical abilities of the native dancers -- i.e. Europeans.

African dancing and Peking Opera did the same for their respective populations. Ever seen the white girls doing hip-hop? Most of them look ridiculous and embarrassing.

Call me what you want, but if you dress a bunch of Africans in tutus and set them loose to classical European music you just aren't going to get the same effect.

Even Asians can't pull it off, IMO, and Levantines are a close shave (which is why American ballet is inferior). The aesthetic is off kilter.

greenrivervalleyman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was once mugged and badly beaten by an all black gang. Should I have been indignant about the lack of diversity when they fractured my skull?

David said...

The eternal obsession of the eternal Jew: destroy everything by urging racial quotas on it. Deviously call the resultant disintegration "integration" (as communism was called "liberation"). Everything traditionally gentile, that is. No diversity urged on yeshivas.

No matter where you are or what you do in life, there is always, sooner or later, a Kaufman wrinkling his or her nose and saying: "This (art form, school, neighborhood, town, nation) is too whitebread - it needs diversity." And the Kaufman always gets what almost no one except the Kaufman wants.

Then whites move away again. Whereupon a Kaufman shows up again.

And we're running out of places to move.

agnostic said...

Given how strapped for cash ballet companies are, how bitterly competitive the market is with less coming from institutions and more from customers, etc., Ms. Kaufman should perform a little experiment by founding a company that's diverse enough and see how well it does.

Normally I'd say it would go under since only what works survives in a competitive market. But given how small the niche for ballet is, there could well be a larger niche of people who don't give a shit about quality of performance but more about how rainbovian the group is.

"Thank god, this is SO much better than that terrible troupe we saw last year -- do you remember how lily-white they were? It's like they don't even care about surviving..."

David said...

>The odds she really wants to see rap fans at the next showing of Puccini (or whatever): less than 0.<

Actually what this type wants is no Puccini - but plenty of Mahler, Gershwin, Korngold, Glass, Schoenberg, et al. Isn't the most marvelous musical mind of the millennium - Bob Dylan - working on an opera? According to Gramophone Magazine lately, Mendelssohn is better than Mozart and "Porgy and Bess" is better than (anything by) Wagner! Mazel tov!

Anonymous said...

Steve,

You've really outdone yourself this time.

My daughter takes dance classes at a diverse dance studio.

I've had the exact "why blacks and other minorities don't become professional ballerinas" conversation with several ballerina moms (black).

Various reasons:

How many petit, skinny black girls do you know? Black kid dancers now go into hip-hop or contemporary dance, which is more compatible with many AA body types.

The cost of 10 to 15 years of lessons is also more difficult for black families to pay for.

The bar for professional dancers is to gain a dance scholarship in Europe. If you think that Americans have a bias against non-petit dancers, try Europe. They are much more narrow than the US in the type of body they will accept for ballet.

One edge for African American dancers is France. Hip hop is all the rage there. Probably the path of least resistance for an AA dancer.

Yes, it's stereotyping, but it's reality too.

-pd in sf

Toadal said...

I've enjoyed Chinese traditional dancers and acrobats and ethnic Russian\Ukrainian ballerinas, however, I would avoid watching a US mixed white and black ballet company perform.

My knowledge that the demands of diversity and ethnic appearances had trumped physical esthetics and talent would leave me ambivalent and uncomfortable watching. I would also feel uncomfortable watching white hip-hop artists for a similar reason.

But, as TV network programmers, advertising executives, and WAPO staff writers inform us, 'Black *is* the new white', we must accept their decision as a price of admission.

However, I would feel comfortable watching a black ballet company perform since their dance interpretation could be so unusual; a mental stretch.

Anonymous said...

"Diversity in ballet remains a serious problem for the small companies as well as the large, on the coasts as well as in the heartland."


How about the "serious problem" of too few blacks in the Kibuki?

Does this writer see how dumb it is to expect to see blacks interested in such a thoroughly European performing art? It is a white thing. They wouldn't understand.

stari_momak said...

We can put a black man in the White House, but we can't put a gentile in the CEO post of a major movie studio.

Anonymous said...

"Diversity in ballet remains a serious problem"

"It's almost as serious as the lack of women and blacks in auto racing!"


Or the lack of women pouring concrete and roofing and working on oil rigs. I mean really serious.

Couchscientist said...

Rahm Emanual started his career as a ballerino (male ballerina) or at least was involved with it in college. Coming from that racist background, I'm surprised he works for a black guy.

asdfadfasdf said...

And not much diversity in basketball either. And in running back positions in football.
In 100m and 200m track. And in hip hop charts. And in the gay world of fashion. And not many conservatives in MSM. So, what are they gonna do about it?

Why are they picking on ballet?

One reason could be because it's considered white and elitist, thus a favorite target of Jewish liberals like Sarah Kaufman. Ballet also symbolizes Western art, beauty, elegance, etc. So, de-Westernizing it is what liberal Jews want.

But the other reason could be most people in ballet--as dancers, trainers, and audience--are affluent white liberals, and they feel uneasy about the lack of fashionable diversity in their cultural sphere. It's a SWPL thing. They are for diversity but the sort of stuff they like tend to attract mostly other whites just like themselves.

AmericanGoy said...

"Funny how Jews are conspicuously silent about diversity when it is they who are over-represented in a given field."

It is hay-larious how most Jews lobby hard for more diversity, immigration and the rights of minorities in whatever country they are in.

With one small exception...

Kylie said...

Yes, I can see where the "junk in the trunk" of black ballerinas would add a much-needed vibrancy to ballet.

I suspect ballet would rather quickly [d]evolve from this:
http://www.youtube.com/user/tatianepassos123#p/u/30/Fs9A9Tos85U

to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEjPDS8Jp1E&feature=related

AmericanGoy said...

"Funny how Jews are conspicuously silent about diversity when it is they who are over-represented in a given field."

It is hay-larious how most Jews lobby hard for more diversity, immigration and the rights of minorities in whatever country they are in.

With one small exception...

addsfasdfsdf said...

What about fatsos and midgets in ballet?
What about dumb people at Harvard? Why should Harvard only accept smart people?
Diversity now!

Christine said...

There is Misty Copeland, a young black female soloist at ABT, and while I enjoy seeing her dance in short pieces, she doesn't have that extra magic, agility or charisma to dance the lead parts in staples like Swan Lake, Giselle or Bayadere. And I can say the same thing about 90% of the young female members of the corps de ballet and soloists at ABT, who are lovely to look at, and dance at a high technical level, but probably won't progress to principal dancers.

ABT had a wonderful young black soloist named Danny Tidwell who had the most aristocratic and elegant bearing, but he has moved on to other things like "Do you think you can dance?," starting a magazine and will be part of a group called "Bad Boys of Dance." I miss him.

Dennis Dale said...

A few years back, it was not enough diversity for librarians.

I think Sailer brought this up, with the same observation, that under-representation in a low-paying gig like this is hardly the most pressing issue for American blacks.

But I do think this idea that blacks can't do ballet is risible--they don't do it because they don't want to. Reminds me of a Chris Rock joke, in listing the ten reasons blacks don't play hockey, among them--"don't feel the need to dominate another sport."

Of course, the Sarah Kaufmans of the world never seem to appreciate that the demographic composition of any given field is really just the aggregate of countless individual choices.

That or they apply the logic of disparate impact not only to talent but to taste--it's bigoted to assume black folks aren't into ballet, or they've been dissuaded by something like "stereotype threat." Personal autonomy is so racist!

Anne said...

Steve,

Do you really have actual knowledge of the dancer life cycle, down to how injured ballerinas go about finding husbands? Or do you just have a talent for presenting random conjectures like they're thoroughly researched and thought out?

Steve Sailer said...

"Do you really have actual knowledge of the dancer life cycle, down to how injured ballerinas go about finding husbands?"

Yes.

eh said...

Charlie the Tuna

He went to the ballet to show he had good taste. (Unfortunately, StarKist wanted tuna that tasted good, not tuna with good taste.) That's probably about the only reason anyone would go.

Truth said...

"Apparently we need to work hard to put more whites into the NBA."

I hear this same idiotic argument time and time and time again. The illogical syllogism is this; white people do not worry about a lack of whites in the NBA because, on some level, most young men play basketball at some point in time. White people are well aware that basketball exists, how to improve at it, and how to make a career of it, given the requisite level of talent. there are many whites making a living in basketball, whites run basketball and have most of the off court jobs.

This is not the case with black people in ballet, NASA, baseball, NASCAR or any of these other endeavors that blacks are shoehorned into, now is it?

Kevin B said...

Bolshoi Standards are rigorous to say the least. The intense training detailed in the video would never make it past the usual "protective" filters in America. Add to this the fact that most Black girls do not have the tall, thin, muscular but lithe body type demanded by traditional productions.

Boo Hoo. I'm getting increasingly irritated by SWPLS and their mush-headed demands.

dasfadfadf said...

Hey, how many straight men in dancing?

asdfadsfasdf said...

How about WE start a fat midget black ballet? We might get millions in NEA grants(and can secretly funnel the money to Steve's blog).

asdasdfasdf said...

Boy, the Dream Team sure looks like America.

asdfasdfasdf said...

Boy, the punditocracy sure represents the American people.

asdfasdfadf said...

Boy, the people who run Hollywood sure look like a cross section of America.

asdadfasdffd said...

Boy, there sure are lots of Mexicans on the LA Lakers.

BamaGirl said...

If anything, the author or the article should be commending upper-class blacks for not encouraging their daughters to pursue an injury-laden "career" in ballet. White upper-middle class parents shouldn't encourage the "follow your dreams" nonsense which leads to useless and typically unfulfilled film, theatre, and dancing aspirations. Wanting to be a professional ballerina is about as useful as wanting to be a professional pole vaulter. Both activities are physically impressive and require a great deal of training, sure, but wanting a career as either is just silly and isn't useful or relevant to 98 percent of the population.

Anonymous said...

Holy Harrison Bergeron, Batman!

This also reminds me that the song Ballerina Girl was about the young Nicole Ritchie. Obviously, we need to put that paragon of grace into a production of Swan Lake, stat!

Jefferson Robins

Anonymous said...

" How does the lack of blacks in ballet imply some conspiratorial "racism" that must be stopped? "

Let's put it this way (for the sake of argument): just imagine a black ballerina as talented as Venus Williams--but looking like Venus Williams--at the ballet. Guarantee it the mostly white audience would complain--vociferously. Could this be called "racism"? I say no. It's an AESTHETIC distinction

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the Washington Post has an article complaining that blacks aren't dancing enough!

Anonymous said...

"It's not just ballet. It's opera. It's symphony. It's the visual arts. The arts are overwhelmingly dominated by by whites. "

I'm shocked, absolutely shocked, to find out that certain ethnic groups are dominating the cultures they invented.

Anonymous said...

To the idiot who wrote that Asians don't make good ballerinas: meet Misa Kuranga

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDCdDHbtkh0&NR=1

Anonymous said...

Hey, how many straight men in dancing?
more than you'd think and they get all the ass they want.
Women in ballet are often myopic and surrounded by homos, thus easy picking, kind of a micro new york city.

headache said...

White people are well aware that basketball exists, how to improve at it, and how to make a career of it, given the requisite level of talent.
This is not the case with black people in ballet, NASA, baseball, NASCAR or any of these other endeavors that blacks are shoehorned into, now is it?

Shit Truth, you confound me every time. I'm sure that even my black labourers in south africa have heard about ballet, and that if their daughters wanted to, they could persue a career in it. I mean blacks in Africa have been in control of their countries anywhere between 15-50 years. Surely that's enough time to set up the infrastructure? Same for NASCAR, though it would be Formula 1 in the South African context. So how were your statements meant to interlock?

Tom V said...

Truth:

This is not the case with black people in ballet, NASA, baseball, NASCAR or any of these other endeavors that blacks are shoehorned into, now is it?

And I should care because...?

What, are you suggesting that blacks don't get enough chance to play baseball?

And how many whites grew up with access to ballet lessons and race cars anyway? I see an untapped talent pool.

And NASA? Are blacks not taught math and science in school? If they're not capable, if they don't look up at the night sky with a sense of wonder, if they'd rather be "community organizers" instead, why the hell should society put them ahead of more competent and passionate people? It makes me sick in my stomach.

Anonymous said...

There will NEVER be enough diversity! It doesn't matter how you justify it or how fair you think you are being! It doesn't matter what percentage of who is in what. It doesn't matter if there are other fields like basketball where the same logic does not apply (just ask 'Truth').

We are primitive creatures. Don't you get how the game is played yet?? DON'T YOU!?!? Play the right game!

michael farris said...

Well there have been a lot of great black opera singers, more women than men, but black opera singers are well enough established that color-blind casting is the rule and no one thinks twice about blacks singing 'white' parts (or vice versa). The same rule applies to Asians but while Asian singers often win contests they mostly seem to go on to notable stage careers.

But opera is about voice more than anything and no one has ever seriously doubted the vocal resources of American Black musicians.

But most black American women (more so than black men maybe) just don't have the particular body type needed for ballet. Actually the body type might be found among some NE Africans (Somalis, Ethiopians) but not among the W Africans (where most Black Americans trace their ancestory).

Anonymous said...

"To the idiot who wrote that Asians don't make good ballerinas: meet Misa Kuranga"

Sylphlike physiques, strict self-discipline, and unquestioning obedience to male choreographers make Asian girls hot property for budget ballet companies in second tier American cities, especially if they are light skinned, but most ballet buffs want to see tall European girls. The fantasy behind many of the classic stories is utterly destroyed by a swarm of alien faces whizzing acrobatically around the stage. After all, it's "Swan Lake" fer crissakes, not "It's a Small World After All."

Uncle Peregrine said...

This is a good place for my evidence that straight men are not the ones behind the waif model look. No ballerina in my lifetime has ever been the kind of sex symbol to men that Baryshnikov was to women.

Svigor said...

Whereupon a Kaufman shows up again.

Yeah, there's a striking lack of diversity in their targets, no? Almost as if the choices were driven by racial hate...

Svigor said...

I hear this same idiotic argument time and time and time again. The illogical syllogism is this; white people do not worry about a lack of whites in the NBA because, on some level, most young men play basketball at some point in time. White people are well aware that basketball exists, how to improve at it, and how to make a career of it, given the requisite level of talent. there are many whites making a living in basketball, whites run basketball and have most of the off court jobs.

This is not the case with black people in ballet, NASA, baseball, NASCAR or any of these other endeavors that blacks are shoehorned into, now is it?


Have you ever fully developed a point, in your entire life? How about halfway?

Tanstaafl said...

Consider yourself admonished.

Anonymous said...

"White upper-middle class parents shouldn't encourage the "follow your dreams" nonsense..."

This is the cause of white America's downfall. The generation born to prosperity (late baby boomers) turned up their noses at many lucrative professions in the search of "meaningful lives." Meanwhile, non-white immigrants were pouring into this country who are all about the money and indoctrinate their kids that early marriage, production of offspring, and making money are the only things that matter.

Over one half of my white female friends, classmates, and colleagues ended up childless. It seems like a Holocaust to me.

Anonymous said...

Amy Chua - World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, so I decided to google a bit and came up with these review by the Guardian's Martin Jacques .

Excerpts of the said book review:

There is a plethora of books about globalisation, many saying roughly the same thing. This one is different. It is rare, indeed, to read a book about globalisation where ethnicity is at the core of the argument. That must have something to do with the fact that the great majority of authors of such books are white and from the west. The author of this book is a Chinese-Filipina. That is also surprising because, alas, there is little Chinese writing on ethnicity either. But this book is a gem. It is not that everything Amy Chua argues is correct - it is not - but her theme is different, rich and compelling.

Her starting point is that in many developing countries a small - often very small - ethnic minority enjoys hugely disproportionate economic power. As she points out, this is not true in the west: on the contrary, we are accustomed to small ethnic minorities occupying exactly the opposite situation, a very disadvantaged economic position. The classic case is southeast Asia, where the Chinese, usually a tiny proportion of the population, enjoy an overwhelmingly dominant economic position. In the Philippines, the Chinese account for 1% of the population and well over half the wealth. The same is true in varying degrees in Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam.

As Chua argues, rich and powerful minorities attract resentment everywhere: but when those minorities are ethnically different - and highly visible - then that resentment can carry a dangerous charge. "In the Philippines, millions of Filipinos work for Chinese: almost no Chinese work for Filipinos. The Chinese dominate industry and commerce at every level ... all of the Philippines' billionaires are of Chinese descent. By contrast, all menial jobs ... are filled by Filipinos." There is very little social intermixing and virtually no intermarriage. And the disparities, Chua argues, have grown more acute with globalisation and western-inspired market reforms.

Southeast Asia is an acute but by no means isolated example. Throughout Latin America, a small white elite has traditionally enjoyed both economic and political power, as well as cultural and racial pre-eminence. However, while in east Asia anti-Chinese sentiment has long been a powerful political force, in Latin America, at least until recently, there has been little ethnic - as opposed to class - resentment against the white elite. The dominance of a small white elite has long existed in southern Africa. Although the black majority now enjoys - as do their counterparts in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia - political power in South Africa, economic power remains firmly in the hands of a tiny white elite. In east Africa, that economic elite is largely Indian; in west Africa, it is often, though in a less extreme form, the Ibos. The picture that emerges is that in much (though not all) of the developing world, economic power is largely concentrated in the hands of - to use Chua's phrase - a "market-dominant" ethnic minority.

asdfasdfadsf said...

Blacks just don't look right in a lot of ballet productions. Certain art forms express the beauty and aspirations of a particular culture. Though anyone can do Kabuki, it really feels genuine only when Japanese do it. Though anyone can do African folklore dance, only Africans look right doing it.
Many ballet tell stories based on European history, folklore, or mythology, and it just doesn't look right to have a black ballerina in the mix.

dfadsfasdfasf said...

"Well there have been a lot of great black opera singers, more women than men, but black opera singers are well enough established that color-blind casting is the rule and no one thinks twice about blacks singing 'white' parts (or vice versa). The same rule applies to Asians but while Asian singers often win contests they mostly seem to go on to notable stage careers.
But opera is about voice more than anything and no one has ever seriously doubted the vocal resources of American Black musicians."

True, but it still looks stupid to have a fat black woman play Siegried's mother.

Anonymous said...

Coming from that racist background, I'm surprised he [Emanual] works for a black guy.

I think you may have made a very slight error there about just who works for whom...

Anonymous said...

He became a dog groomer. I'm guessing he was a poof. It's especially sad to end up poor, gay, and over 30, eking out a living as a pet groomer

There is always opportunity around, why just ask Terry McMillian, I'm sure she would have a few words of encouragement for any aspiring gay dog groomer.

ATBOTL said...

"Her starting point is that in many developing countries a small - often very small - ethnic minority enjoys hugely disproportionate economic power. As she points out, this is not true in the west: on the contrary, we are accustomed to small ethnic minorities occupying exactly the opposite situation, a very disadvantaged economic position."

Really?

michael farris said...

"it still looks stupid to have a fat black woman play Siegried's mother"

Then this will blow your mind, Barbara Hendricks as a 17th century Englishwoman, note her father at 4.05

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NpF9X19VVQ

It might look odd to the uninitiated but she outsings everyone else in the cast so I don't mind.

Lucille said...

No sillier than a white woman in geisha attire.

Christine said...

"True, but it still looks stupid to have a fat black woman play Siegried's mother."

I guess you're not a Jessye Norman fan. You sound like someone who only has a Naxos Valkyrie highlights CD in his collection.

If another black Wagnerian soprano who can sing Seiglinde beautifully appears in our lifetime, you better believe that audiences who attend opera will be excited about her. I hope it happens!

Tanstaafl said...

Her starting point is that in many developing countries a small - often very small - ethnic minority enjoys hugely disproportionate economic power. As she points out, this is not true in the west: on the contrary, we are accustomed to small ethnic minorities occupying exactly the opposite situation, a very disadvantaged economic position.

Sure. No market dominant minorities here. Just a bunch of white people constantly admonishing each other.

In the Philippines, millions of Filipinos work for Chinese: almost no Chinese work for Filipinos. The Chinese dominate industry and commerce at every level ... all of the Philippines' billionaires are of Chinese descent. By contrast, all menial jobs ... are filled by Filipinos.

I wonder if there's some ambiguously mixed Chinese-Filipino HBDer in the Philippines struck by how brown people are constantly admonishing each other.

Anonymous said...

"No sillier than a white woman in geisha attire."

Nothing sillier than any woman in geisha attire, except for perhaps a gay man.

Truth said...

"Shit Truth, you confound me every time. I'm sure that even my black labourers in south africa have heard about ballet,"

I've heard about space travel; that does not mean that I received the tutledge, at a young enough age, to logically pursue a career as an astronaut.

"Have you ever fully developed a point, in your entire life? How about halfway?"

That's where you come in, Neo. Do you think Daniel-San would have learned karate quite as quickly if Miyagi had explained the significance of his chores in advance?

"if they'd rather be "community organizers" instead, why the hell should society put them ahead of more competent and passionate people?"

Do you think that Lucy Liu is as sexy as Cameron Diaz or as talented an actress as Drew Barrymore? They were all cast together in Charlie's Angels, right?

David said...

>I guess you're not a Jessye Norman fan. You sound like someone who only has a Naxos Valkyrie highlights CD in his collection.<

*I'm* not a Jessye Norman fan, and I'll put my opera collection up against yours any day of the week, dear.

Jessye Normans are about as natural as white blondes playing kabuki in Japan. It's a freaky political exercise, universally understood to be not more than that. It is also massively dispiriting.

Culture is more than technical criteria, such as how high or low one can sing. A robot can conceivably be programmed to fulfill those metrics. I go to opera to hear people - and the people I go to hear are mine, not aliens who (are there to) make me lose all interest in the proceedings.

(Caught your frask re. Die Walk├╝re.)

michael farris said...

"I go to opera to hear people - and the people I go to hear are mine, not aliens who (are there to) make me lose all interest in the proceedings."

This _might_ make sense in some art forms but opera has always been anchored in artifice.

Also, audiences have hundreds of years of conditioning of accepting physical improbability in performers who can cut the mustard vocally.

There are long standing traditions of women playing male roles (usually romantic and/or valiant young men) and men playing female roles (usually old women). The voices required in opera seldom come in bodies that match the dramatic action in more ways than one.

Color blind casting is more a continuation and natural development of operatic tradition than any kind of cultural sabotage.

So fortunately yours is a minority opinion and most audiences would prefer to hear a great singer of any race rather than a mediocre singer who closely matches the racial characteristics indicated by the libretto.

Anonymous said...

"I've heard about space travel; that does not mean that I received the tutledge, at a young enough age, to logically pursue a career as an astronaut. "

Do astronauts get selected during their teenage years then? Last time I checked they were usually experienced pilots... Doesn't special 'tutelage' from childhood to become a pilot, just take 'nerdy' subjects like maths or physics, but don't actually become a nerd (by which I mean don't develop myopia or get weedy or ashmatic). You did go to school?