Friday, June 24, 2011

Just how Asian is the Asian Festival?

Utah Asian Festival, June 11, 2011

Utah Scottish Festival Highland Games
On the drive down to the Sandy Expo Center, I saw a freeway sign indicating that one of the annual Scottish Festivals (yes, I'm Scottish) was taking place that same day.

Oh, how repeatedly bored I am by Scottish Festivals! Mind you, I think Scottish dance is charming enough, and men in kilts tossing cabers are undeniably fun to watch; I don't know, maybe it's that hearing the same bagpipe tunes over and over again makes me feel like I'm losing my mind. Ah, I know what it is--it's the booths. Tents full of over-priced junk, and people trying to pass it off as Scottish. The few "authentic experiences" available at a festival like that are drowned out by the volume of phony merchandise. It's so insulting. Like, I come and am immediately demoted from seeker of truth to consumer of goods. Why are they selling shortbread when they could be giving away recipes and conversing about traditional baking tools and methods? Why are they selling the same paperbacks and jewelry (that you can find at any store) when they could be giving presentations on folklore, symbolism, song, and literature? And what about the connection to the contemporary country? I've never seen a booth about current events in Scotland. It's as if we're celebrating a country and a culture so caricature, it's a Scotland that never existed. A pop myth.

All that aside, I started to wonder if I would feel out of place at the Asian Festival. I turned the radio on. It was MPR's Prairie Home Companion (yes, I grew up in Minnesota.) Sigh, I thought to myself, this is my kind of me-culture, Midwestern folklore and parody: a celebration of tradition that doesn't take itself too seriously, and isn't trying to sell me anything.

Then, I arrive.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Color, Kinetics, Kin

Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple (Spanish Fork, Utah)
 This week's article contributed by guest writer, Gloria Gardner Murdock.

An electromagnetic field in Utah’s Spanish Fork drew in 50,000 revelers – reported as predominantly LDS college students – in celebration of the Hindu Festival of Color, known as Holi, March 24-25, 2011.

Jessica, age 33, learned about the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple’s event from friends in the Seattle area where she lives, and decided to share the fun with her newly married younger sister, Shairstin, in Sandy, UT and their returned missionary brother, Brett, who attends BYU.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Do you judge people by their race?

Earlier this week, I found this:

The U.M. Magazine Poll Results
We asked you...
With all honesty, do you judge people (whether negatively or positively) by their race?
We ran our poll for one year and it resulted in 33% of our voters choosing "yes" and 66% choosing "no".

Well, this is odd, I thought. I wondered to myself if the third admitting “yes” to pre-judgment was a more self-aware and open-minded bunch than the 2 thirds voting “no.” I thought the demographic for the poll complicated the results anyway. Urban Mozaik is a multicultural, e-magazine, intended for celebrating diversity. Anyone taking their poll is presumably a lover of all races and cultures, why else would he or she read the magazine? I trust UM recognized that they were basically asking, “Are you aware of your natural, human tendency to judge people (whether negatively or positively) by their race?” My big question is, did the pollsters realize as much? Then I had a good laugh imagining myself taking the poll, and staring for a half-hour at the question, unsure of its intent. What kind of answer would they prefer to see in the ideal future? 100% “yes, I’m self-aware of my racism?” Or 100% “no, I’m not racist, period?” 

I’ve been enjoying UM’s free-response questionnaires. Reading them, I mean. They ask candid questions about controversial race and immigration questions, and post volunteers’ thorough responses

What I’d like to publish here today is not a questionnaire response submitted to UM, but one submitted to The Culturalist.