Annotation: bell hooks’ “Loving Blackness as Political Resistance” (1999)

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation was written in reference to my paper: “The Productive, Political Power of Love in Nina Revoyr’s Southland.”

hooks, bell. “Loving Blackness as Political Resistance.” Black Looks Race and Representation. New York: South End Press, 1999. 9-20. Print.

“In her essay, bell hooks critiques how students and scholars are more interested and comfortable with discussing “black self-hatred,” how blacks have desired and “tried to attain whiteness,” rather than the possibility of “loving blackness” (10). She emphasizes the need to deeply interrogate and move beyond this “black obsession with whiteness,” which merely focuses attention on oppressive white power structures and hierarchies, in some ways reinforcing their influence over black lives, rather than investing effort to articulate new modes of seeing and understanding the black body that can be truly liberating (11). hooks asserts that the most effective means of combating white supremacy, both external and internalized racism, is for individuals to love blackness, to not simply love themselves in spite of their blackness but because of their blackness. But she also notes the extreme difficulties that lie in the process as the structures of white supremacy continue to “seduce black folks with the promise of mainstream success if only [they] are willing to negate the value of blackness” (17). While hooks admits that black people who accept the status quo and conform to whiteness, will probably achieve greater material rewards and upward mobility, she emphasizes that this conception that one has to deny blackness and black culture in order to attain such levels of socio-economic success will only precipitate a precarious crisis in black identity.

hooks ultimately suggests the need for people learn how to love themselves and how that act of loving can serve as a real form of political resistance because it directly challenges the logics of white supremacist thought, which cast blackness as that which should not and cannot be loved. Revoyr’s Southland takes on this political project, as Jackie Ishida learns how to love herself, her history, her people, and the members of the black LA community who she realizes are also part of her family.

Annotation: Tamaka K. Nopper’s “The 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Asian American Abandonment Narrative as Political Fiction” (2007)

This annotation was written in reference to my paper: “The Productive, Political Power of Love in Nina Revoyr’s Southland.”

Nopper, Tamara K. “The 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Asian American Abandonment Narrative as Political Fiction.” CR: The New Centennial Review 6.2 (2007): 73-110. Print.

In this essay Nopper asserts that the popular abandonment narrative, which presents Korean Americans as victims of state neglect during the 1992 LA riots is a political fiction manufactured to accentuate the particularity of this minority group’s experience. She emphasizes that this narrative is more emotionally charged rather than supported by historical fact and has been often employed by activists as evidence of how Asian Americans were abandoned because of their racialization as outsiders in the US nation-state, “unwittingly caught in the cross hairs of black-white antagonism” of which they bear no direct relation or responsibility (73). Nopper suggests that the abandonment narrative can potentially perpetuate a harmful evasion of how Asian Americans do in fact possess complex relations with whiteness and blackness. She further asserts that the popularity of a narrative focused on Korean American trauma and victimization as simply a continuation of the historical legacy of anti-Asian racism in the United States ignores important historical divergences, where the government response to the 1992 LA riots was much speedier and more efficient compared to the earlier 1965 Watts riots. Nopper further discusses how the abandonment narrative problematically obscures the state’s actual fixation with containing blacks and the violence and destruction they are often accused of and associated with. She essentially calls for a shift from the conventional Asian-centric perspective of the 1992 LA riots to one that focuses on the treatment of blacks. Nopper ultimately argues that Asian Americans and their personal property were collateral damage to vigorous state efforts to “control and contain black people” (93). While I appreciate Nopper’s attempt to recover and expose the “forgotten” history of anti-black racism during the 1992 LA riots, as she deconstructs one “grand narrative” she runs the risk of re-instituting another in its place.

She essentially suggests that rather than a misguided privileging of the Asian American experience we should privilege the treatment and experience of blacks. Rather than asserting which minority group bears greater historical relevance to the 1992 LA riots, I believe that it is more productive to examine how the histories of these two groups intersect and overlap as they are subjected to and struggle to resist oppression. Nina Revoyr’s 2002 novel Southland is particularly successful in this respect as if offers a nuanced, palimpsest account of history through three generations of the Ishida family as these people live through the Japanese internment during WWII, the 1965 Watts riots, the 1992 LA riots straight into the contemporary 21st century America. Revoyr depicts the story of Jackie Ishida, a Japanese American law student, who is initially disinterested in and disconnected from her family history, but eventually uncovers the complex origins of her roots and how she is deeply tied to members of the black LA community.

Annotation: bell hooks’ “Revolutionary Black Women” (1999)

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation was written in reference to my paper: “The Productive, Political Power of Love in Nina Revoyr’s Southland.”

hooks, bell. “Revolutionary Black Women: Making Ourselves Subject.” Black Looks Race and Representation. New York: South End Press, 1999. 9-20. Print.

In this article hooks relates her experience at a meeting with several black feminist women. She reveals that her attempt to share her personal narrative of growing up in a “segregated rural black community that was very supportive,” where she was able to develop a confident self image and have a “positive experience of ‘blackness’,” was sharply rejected by the other women who believed their own stories of pain and cruel victimization were more authentically “black” (44). hooks essentially describes a situation where blacks are themselves complicit in trying to contain difference into recognizable stereotypes. They want to perpetuate the image of the suffering, oppressed black woman because that is what society expects and more readily accepts. hooks emphasizes, however, the need to break down this monolithic essentializing narrative to make room for stories of diverse black female experiences. Rather than clinging onto this popular conception of the victimized, oppressed black woman, hooks calls for an acknowledgement of those women who do love and take tremendous pride in their blackness. She asserts that there will only be true progress when black women stop trying to silence those whose experiences are different from their own and start embracing the tremendous diversity within their own community.

Ultimately, hooks suggests that narratives that explore black self-hatred, where blackness is presented as ugly and undesirable, must be replaced or, at the very least, taught alongside positive narratives of black power and pride, because if students are never shown that blackness is something that can and should be loved, how can they begin to love themselves and one another? hooks emphasizes that this act of loving can serve as a real form of political resistance because it directly challenges the logic of white supremacist thought, which cast blackness as that which should not and cannot be loved. In the following paper I argue that Nina Revoyr’s 2003 novel, Southland, takes on and even expands this political project as a narrative that teaches readers how to love blackness, Asian-ness and most importantly demonstrates that love is possible between members of these two minority groups that have been often depicted as highly antagonistic and antithetical to one another.

Annotation: Scott Kurashige’s The Shifting Grounds of Race (2007)

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation was written in reference to my paper on Nina Revoyr’s Southland, as yet, still untitled.

Kurashige, Scott. “Introduction.” The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2007. 1-12. Print.

In the “Introduction” of his book, Kurashige accentuates the need to examine the complex interrelations between Black and Japanese Americans that helped transform Los Angeles into a multicultural “world city” (11). He traces the historical trajectory of these two minority groups, noting that while both experienced similar forms of racial oppression before WWII, they “were subsequently thrust onto different historical paths” in the post war era (4). Kurashige contextualizes this divergence by demonstrating how white hegemonic discourses that classified Japanese and more generally all Asian Americans as the “model minority” was an “ideological construction” used to uphold the success of US liberal democracy and spur divisive antagonism between minority groups. The myth suggests that if Japanese Americans were able to attain a middle class status in the United States, then Blacks should assume responsibility for their own failure to achieve similar socio-economic success. Kurashige emphasizes that the popularization of the “model minority” narrative not only problematically obscures the lingering, haunting effects of internment on the Japanese American community but also perpetuates the erasure of those who were never able to attain upward mobility. In his “Introduction” Kurashige also attempts to expose and recover the largely overlooked” history of Black and Japanese American solidarity in the Westside, ranging from West Jefferson as early as the 1920s to postwar Crenshaw as late as the 1970s and beyond” (10). He powerfully demonstrates the deep interconnections between these two minority groups in his example of “Little Tokyo,” which after the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans, become a predominantly black community that “African American entrepreneurs and community leaders dubbed Bronzeville” (1).

Kurashige emphasizes that while many people predicted that the with the end of internment and the war, the return of Japanese Americans to Los Angeles would spark “violent turf battles,” the two groups completely astonished the public as activists from both sides began to work together to achieve “interethnic political cooperation” and stimulate more interaction between the two communities (2). Kurashige demonstrates how this cultural exchange and syncretism allowed LA to emerge as a multicultural “world city” that can boast of a “Crenshaw institution like the Holiday Bowl,” where people can order from a menu containing both African and Asian cuisine and bowl in this diverse environment (11).

In Southland, Revoyr presents the story of Jackie Ishida, a Japanese American girl, who is initially ignorant and entirely detached from her family’s past and immigrant roots. She is disturbed to see so many black faces at her grandfather’s funeral and only registers how different they are from her own. As the novel progresses, however, Jackie begins to steadily uncover the complex history she shares with members of the black LA community not only in terms of shared experiences of racism and oppression but also intimate family relations. I argue that in this this respect, Revoyr’s Southland does the same work as Kurashige’s book in tracing the connections between Black and Japanese Americans in LA and how specific historical processes compelled a “forgetting” of these ties.