The name “Half and Halves” is derived from the same term used to describe Punjabi-Mexican individuals, typically offspring of Punjabi fathers and Mexican mothers. In the early 1900s, several hundred Punjabis immigrated as farmers to central California and came in contact with the communities of Mexican laborers. In addition to the commonality of family values, spicy-hot food, and zesty song and dance, what drew these communities together was that they were uniformly discriminated against by white society. Legislature forbidding Punjabi men from bringing wives from India and anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited whites from marrying brown or black people, seeded familial liaisons between Punjabis and Mexicans. Not understanding what race these individuals belonged to, county clerks would simply write “brown” on marriage certificates for Punjabis and Mexicans, and thus began the integration of these two communites.
Though it might be a bit outdated, the old saying goes: “Behind every successful man, there’s a great woman.”
In the case of astrophysicist, author, radio and television host Neil deGrasse Tyson, that great woman would be his mother, Sunchita “Toni” Tyson.
In honor of Mother’s Day, Toni Tyson discusses the unique challenges of raising a future astrophysicist in the Bronx.
Ms. Tyson encouraged her son’s scientific aptitude and interests, even when some teachers and professors had low expectations for Neil due to a racist bias.
"It was not easy—it was a full time 24-hour a day job," says Toni. "All three of my children are brown, and they stay brown all year round, and they even get darker in the summertime. We had to make it very, very clear at a very early age that some people are not going to be very nice to them, but it was not their problem but the other person’s problem. When things did occur, we would get onto it immediately.”
When Neil was in junior high school, Toni says that she had read about a scholarship available through the Department of Education. Neil filled out the application, wrote an essay, and had to get three references. According to Toni, one teacher Neil asked for a reference came back with some harsh feedback.
"When he presented it to the teacher, he said, ‘What makes you think you can get this scholarship?’" says Toni. "Of course, he came home devastated. As a result, he used another teacher. I had gotten vibes from this individual that I did not like during one of the Parent Teacher Association meetings."
That is just one of many stories of struggles Toni discusses in this wide ranging interview Takeaway Host John Hockenberry. Neil deGrasse Tyson himself also joins in the conversation—listen to the full discussion above to hear more.
A few days ago, I talked to my grandmother in Eritrea about working in the food service industry. Most of the conversation was me trying to rationalize the depraved mechanisms of capitalistic voyeurism in the US, though there really isn’t such a thing.
When she realized that much of the food gets thrown out at the end of the night, she asked why when there are so many people going hungry. I told her a lot of it had to do with discouraging the employees from taking food. “What’s wrong with taking food? Especially if its already been bought and winds up in the trash anyways? These employees have families, don’t they? They could use the food.” she replied. And honestly, how do you respond to surplus of food being tossed as waste to a woman’s whose witnessed people die from famines?
There wasn’t anything I could say to justify it. There was a long silence between us and I said I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense. We ended the conversation with her stating “adikhi com himamey eyu dizekireni, si’ilu yiserikh bizey mikhiyat, bizey misikar, nabra yebulun” which roughly translates to “your country reminds me of my last episode of cancer, causing theft and dispair simply because it can, its entire life dependant on the suffering of others” and that’s probably the most honest way I’ve heard someone refer to the way American capitalistic economics function.
La source des femmes
Immigrants. First generation.
A young school boy is seen here placing his signature on a large banner in front of Fort Railway Station today, which was used as a Public Petition against recent ethnic violence in Southern Sri Lanka. The campaign reminding about violence against minority Tamils in July 1983, which is known as Black July as organised by the Movement for Equal Rights, an orgnisation formed by representatives of different ethnic groups in Colombo. Pix by Pradeep Pathirana
Her hobby is acting. Her full-time gig is dropping truth bombs all over your feelings.
Preach Auntie Alfre!
"Even if we work hard to be a teacher, or a lawyer, or a doctor, we are seen first as outsiders."