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The Last Airbender opens this weekend, and has one of the worst Rotten Tomatoes scores that I’ve seen yet. Right now it’s hovering around 7-9% (Currently it’s at 9, but it was at 7 yesterday). To put this in reference, Twilight’s Eclipe is at 50%. And that’s a movie that is only getting slack from reviewers because they know that it will appeal to its fanbase and it’s fanbase only.

“Avatar” was a phenomenon for Nickelodeon. They found themselves with a series that appealed to both children and adults, one that was both humorous and epic. Not only that, it was a coup for the Asian community. While “Avatar” is not set in our world, it is clearly one that was created with its roots in Eastern philosophies, cultures and myths. The Entertainment industry mostly overlooks the Asian community, focusing on African-American or Hispanic families when given the chance. Asian characters are usually relegated to stereotypes and any compelling story with Asian actors is likely a foreign film imported to the US (Hero, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, or House of Flying Daggers).

So many were hopeful for the movie, which would be the first Western blockbuster that could do it right. (Dragonball: Evolution didn’t cast Asian actors with the exception of Chow Yun Fat, who was of course relegated to the mentor role) Fans began to worry about M. Night Shyamalan, fearing that he would bring the visually and emotionally dark tone (that his films have (he did). Then the casting calls began to leak. They weren’t looking for Asian actors for any of the tribes, with the exception of the Fire tribe. What had been an Asian cast was now predominantly white. Groups were concerned, as South East Asian actors were cast as the villians. Which might seem to some as overreacting- but typically, white characters are the heroes, while minorities find themselves as villains or sidekicks. They even dubbed it “racebending.”

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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In my rant on racism (“Language? We don’t need no stinkin’ national language“), I mentioned the story from Prescott, AZ where a mural depicting local children was being repainted to make the students white. Where a local city council member was using his radio show to speak out against the mural, and during the painting of it, artists were treated to racial epithets being shouted at them.

Well, there’s a small victory. The mural, which according to the school principal was lightened to make the faces seem happier, not because of the controversy (right)- is being restored to the original color scheme. The city council member? Was fired from his radio show. And the city has come together to prove that they support the children who were depicted.

So what did Steve Blair say that was so bad? Here’s a quick highlight of what he had said on his show:

On his May 21 show, Blair said, “I am not a racist individual, but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who’s president of the United States today and based upon the history of this community when I grew up, we had four black families – who I have been very good friends with for years – to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, ‘Why?’”

“”Personally, I think it’s pathetic,” he also said. “You have changed the ambience of that building to excite some kind of diversity power struggle that doesn’t exist in Prescott, Arizona. And I’m ashamed of that.”

On Wednesday, Blair again emphasized that “I’m not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it’s a word I can’t stand.”

Blair questions whether the mural is representative of Prescott, noting, “The focus doesn’t need to be on what’s different; the focus doesn’t need to be on the minority all the time.”

Blair said he has received a number of calls from long-time Prescott residents who ask, “Who authorized that graffiti on the wall?” He added: “What these people don’t like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats.”

“It was defacing a public building, of a historic nature,” Blair said when interviewed after losing his radio job.

“Nobody bothered to let the community know what that mural was supposed to depict, made it very difficult even to buy in on what the mission statement of that mural was supposed to be,” said Blair.

“It was too big, too in your face, wrong place, wrong time,” said Blair.

“It looked like a guy, in my opinion, a black guy, brown guy holding a stick, and flowers and stuff, what was it supposed to mean? If they say it means going green, what does that mean?”

Wow. I don’t even know where to start. He used the classic “I have black friends, therefore, I’m not a racist” argument. His apology included the word but, which negates the apology. He even tried to claim that choosing a black student had something to do with Obama being president!

But considering that he had a Spanish Language banner removed that encouraged residents to send in their census form because it might make visitors think “we’re a Spanish community rather than an English community.” Nevermind that a banner in English hung a block away. He also reportedly referred to Mexicans as “taco flippers.” Sorry, Blair. I think that sets a pretty good precedence for being a racist right there.

No matter what, it looks like the silent citizens of Prescott are stepping up to show that he doesn’t represent them. Which is a victory indeed!

Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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One of the common complaints I’ve heard in the immigration reform debate is that the United States needs to make English the official language. That we’ll save money in only printing one versions of forms, and right now we’re catering to illegal immigrants.

Why am I even mentioning this issue? Someone on Facebook (an app friend, who clearly doesn’t know me) suggested that I “like” a page called “THIS IS AMERICA…I SHOULDNT HAVE TO PRESS 1 FOR ENGLISH.” Just a joke right? Take a peek at the profile picture.

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Originally published at American Whitney. You can comment here or there.

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July 2011

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