Why Doesn’t Keanu Reeves Play More Hapas?

Check out this trailer for a new Keanu Reeves vehicle, based (believe it or not) on an actual Japanese legend, and due out this coming December.

The movie may or, perhaps more likely, may not turn out to be good. What caught our attention about this trailer though, much more than the low-budget CGI or action film clichés, was that first line, when the man with the full-body tattoo asks for a “half-breed.” The half-breed is Keanu’s character, and given the feudal Japanese setting it’s an obvious assumption that he’s playing what might today be more politely referred to as a hapa.
Happily, this is not an instance of the common and uncomfortable practice of casting white actors as people of color, a modern phenomenon uncomfortably analogous to historic traditions like blackface and yellowface. Keanu Reeves really is a hapa – his father was of native Hawaiian and Chinese descent. There has been plenty of commentary decrying the tendency to give similar roles to white actors. For us, 47 Ronin raises a different question. Why is it so unusual for a hapa actor like Reeves to play a hapa character?
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Race is Like a High School Clique

Have you ever heard the argument that race is a social construction with no biological basis? Have you ever heard that argument and had no idea what it meant? Have you ever heard that idea and asked yourself, “What on Earth is a social construction?” Well, if so, you’re not unlike staff writer Joel, whose efforts to understand this important idea inspired the title of this post, “Race is Like a High School Clique.” Watch him break it all down in our latest MIXLY Perspective.
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Africa tops Map of the World’s most ethnically diverse countries

This map is based on research measuring ethnic diversity that was done in 2002 for the Havard Institute of Economic Research (11 years ago). The difference with the 2010 US census for example, is that it’s data that reflects “how people see themselves, not how they’re categorized by outsiders”. They gauged what characterizes ethnic diversity by asking this  question: “If you called up two people at random in a particular country and ask them their ethnicity, what are the odds that they would give different answers? The higher the odds, the more ethnically “fractionalized” or diverse the country.” Max Fisher, the author of the Washington Post article used the information from the survey to create a map where “the greener countries are more ethnically diverse and the orange countries more homogenous”. The results that came out are the following:

African countries are the most diverse: the world’s 20 most diverse countries are all African. 

Japan and the Koreas are the most homogenous.

European countries are ethnically homogenous

The Americas are often diverse

Wide variation in the Middle East, with a big range of diversity from Morocco to Iran

The author of the article then suggests to think about these results with GDP, strong democracy & conflict  in perspective (more ethnically diverse countries tend to be more unstable politically and have a lower GDP). While there appears to be a correlation between the two it’s very difficult to draw any conclusion given the complexity of the history of all those countries. Anyone who is familiar with the African continent for example shouldn’t be surprised by those results. A country like Namibia has barely 2 million inhabitants but has 9 official languages and any of it’s inhabitants speaks at least three of them (unless they’re of Caucasian descent) and often more.  Africans are also “more genetically diverse than the inhabitants of the rest of the world combined” and that has to do with the central role Africa has played in human evolution. Africa hasn’t always been the playground of colonial powers, but it’s always been the most diverse place on the world.  So come to your own conclusions and let us know what you think.



What Role Does Genetics Play in Lifespan? Ask USA TODAY [VIDEO]

As we look at many diverse cultures around the globe there are many attributes that can be associated to specific cultures, some positive, some negative. With that in mind, would specific genetics play a role in someone’s lifespan? Are some ethnicities/cultures prone to outlive others? As various cultures and ethnicities mix how could this be affected. Hit the jump to see science reporter Dan Vergano discuss the role genetics play in lifespan. Read More

Five Things Vampires Can Teach Us About Neighboring

We are all about diversity of course and that means we’re open to the cultures and traditions of everyone, even those that are viewed as mythical communities like vampires. We came across this interesting article explaining some traditions that vampires can teach all people. Some things to “live” by, even if these people are truly ‘alive’. Read More

Is It Okay for Americans to Hope That the Boston Marathon Bombers are White? [VIDEO]

One of the sideline stories to the Boston Marathon bombing is the ethnic expectations of the suspects before anyone had been identified. False information of descriptions [black or darker skinned] received a good amount of backlash around the internet. People speculated on what country these suspects were from, who was the enemy, etc. When the images of the suspects were released the FBI warned to not try to associate ethnicity or race with the images but just focus on the actual faces. Many Americans had hoped the bombers were white and this was a domestic terrorist act. Obviously racial and ethnic undertones are tied into this event, but is it right. Cenk Uygur, Tricia Rose, Noah Rothman, and Michael Shure debate whether or not it’s okay Americans to hope the people who committed the Boston Marathon attacks are of a certain race, ethnicity or religious background. Read More

When Our Kids Own America pt. 1 via NPR

While reading a cool article on code-switching from NPR we looked through their “Code Switching” section and fell upon their newest post which seemed to be even more so up our alley. It’s a three part series and you can start reading part 1 after the jump. What is it about you ask? This: America’s seismic demographic shift is upending life in our suburbs, cities and our popular culture. So why are we still clinging to the same stories to make sense of these changes? Read More

LL Cool J & Brad Paisley Are “Accidental Racists”

As news of this song hit the internet people all over seemed to be reacting to it. Many not so happy. Their song together involves a white man from the ‘South having a open dialogue with a black man of urban America. The two artists touch on stereotypes affecting their perception of the other and that they aren’t a threat to the other. The song in some eyes is corny but in all actuality having two artists with a certain reach and platform creating a song that looks to create an honest dialogue between these types of people is a positive step. As in the case of the “Jew In A Box” exhibit, people are trying to start these conversations yet receiving all sorts of negative backlash. If these things aren’t the way to go about these dialogues, we ask again…what is the correct way to do so? Hit the jump to read the lyrics for the song “Accidental Racist” by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J. Read More

Some Other Race; How Do We Count Hispanics?

For many the break down of what’s considered Hispanic can be a confusing one. It’s definitely left the census confused and with immigration being one of the largest topics for legislature a closer look. With Hispanics, they can fit into a number of various races and recently a good number of them via the census have categorized themselves as some other race. This confusion has the census looking into collapsing the race and ethnicity questions into one looking to clarify origin. It’s led Hispanics to almost become a de facto race. This isn’t the first time this has happened as European immigrants from years ago have grown into what we know as ‘white’ in America. Hit the jump to see some insight on this issue. Let us know your thoughts on the article in the comments section. Read More