From Color Line to Color Chart: Racism and Colorism in the New Century

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2018-11-16 04:28Z by Steven

From Color Line to Color Chart: Racism and Colorism in the New Century

Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy
Volume 10, Issue 1 (January 2008)
pages 52-69
DOI: 10.15779/Z380C9X

Angela P. Harris, Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California, Davis

When my sister graduated from college in the mid-1980s with a degree in musical theater she moved to Chicago with her new husband in search of work in television commercials and the performing arts. To her frustration and dismay, however, despite her good looks, acting ability, and musical talent, she was rejected in audition after audition. Getting rejected for arbitrary reasons or for no reason, of course, is just life in the entertainment industry. After a while, though, my sister began to hear some repetition in the rejections she received. “You don’t look black enough,” is the apology she would get.

My sister is very fair-skinned, with hair that streaks blonde in the summer. Yet, at least to discerning eyes, she can’t “pass” for white: her features, her creamy skin, and her “African booty” distinguish her from the Scandinavian descent blondes that populate beer commercials and musical revues. For casting directors, then, she fell into a limbo: too white to play black, but too black to play white.

Today, my sister has a recurring role on a children’s television show (she’s Prudence the Musical Genie on “Jack’s Big Show,” produced by Nickelodeon, if you want to see her), and fortunes are changing not just for her but for many women and men in the performing arts who “read” as racially ambiguous, or racially “mixed.” To put it bluntly, the ambiguous/mixed look is now “hot.” Celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Mariah Carey, and The Rock discuss their mixed background with pride;’ television, catalog, magazine, and newspaper advertising is full of adorable light-brown children with flowing locks that are not quite nappy, not quite straight; and mixed-race.

Politician Barack Obama finds himself able to appeal to both white and African-American audiences. A recent essay predicts that in the future the most desirable aesthetic both in the United States and in Latin America will not be to look “white,” but to look café con crema.

Not only the aesthetics but the ideologies of race are undergoing a shift. Tanya Hernandez, who writes in the field of comparative race and racism, argues that the United States is poised to adopt the “multiracial matrix” that characterizes state and civil society in Cuba, Brazil, and Puerto Rico. Hernandez describes this matrix as composed of four beliefs:

(1) [R]acial mixture and diverse racial demography will resolve racial problems by transcending race; (2) fluid racial identity is an indicator of a form of racial progress that deconstructs the stability of racial categories and thereby brings society closer to a colorblind utopia; (3) racism is solely a phenomenon of aberrant racist individuals who inappropriately express their prejudice; and (4) discussing race or focusing on race is itself racist because it disrupts the harmony of race neutrality.

Judging from these indicators, perhaps the dream of finally achieving racial harmony through racial intermixing is about to become real. Hernandez and some other scholars, however, are worried rather than pleased about the emergence of the multiracial matrix. Some worry that despite the emergence of an anti-race public discourse, racism has not disappeared, but instead has retreated into individual cognitive processing systems, where it is inaccessible to legal intent tests (and, often, the individual’s own conscious mind), yet continues to shape the life chances of persons according to race. In this view, what is disappearing is not racism but rather our ability to talk about it. Others argue that in the new millennium traditional racism is indeed disappearing, but only to be slowly supplanted by colorism, in which the color of a person’s skin will take on more importance in determining how she is treated by others than her ancestry. In this Article, I speculate about the implications of this second possibility.

In Part I, I survey the critical race theory literature addressing colorism. This literature has examined how colorism fits (or doesn’t fit) into the existing apparatus of anti-discrimination law in the United States, and – as in Hernandez’s work – the relationship between colorism in the United States and in other countries. In Part II, I draw on a different strand of critical race theory literature to argue that the work of the performativity school offers a way to conceptually link colorism to more familiar forms of racism. In Part III, I speculate about the possible effects on society and anti-discrimination law of a drift away from ancestry as an important component of assigned race and towards a greater focus on color…

Read the entire article here.

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New $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond goes into circulation next week

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Media Archive, Videos, Women on 2018-11-13 04:49Z by Steven

New $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond goes into circulation next week

CP24
2018-11-12

Alex Cooke, Reporter
The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — A new $10 banknote featuring Viola Desmond’s portrait will go into circulation in a week, just over 72 years after she was ousted from the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S.

The civil rights pioneer and businesswoman is the first Canadian woman to be featured on a regularly circulating banknote, which will also show a map of Halifax’s historic north end, home to one of Canada’s oldest black communities and the site where Desmond opened her first salon.

Irvine Carvery, a prominent member of Halifax’s north end and a former school board chair, said he’s excited that the bill will pay tribute to her, describing the inclusion of a black woman on the note as “a historic moment.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Mike Reed’s Flesh & Bone

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2018-11-13 03:54Z by Steven

Mike Reed’s Flesh & Bone

BIMHUIS
2018-02-03


©Adrienne-Thomas

Influential bandleader from Chicago presents an evocative mix of music, spoken word and video. ‘With its historical depth and vigorous performance, the music satisfies on its own terms’ (Downbeat).

Mike Reed’s compositions for Flesh & Bone are both deeply personal and brimming with hope, and represent his expressions of feeling about social unrest, racism and resurgent nationalism. On the eponymous album, the Chicago-based musician recollects harrowing memories of a confrontation with far-right protesters on a train journey with his band through Eastern Europe. For this project, this same four-piece band has been expanded to include a cornet player and a bass clarinet player. Poet and performer Marvin Tate plays an important role on the album as well as on stage, where dramatic tales come together with music and moving images.

As a drummer, composer and founder of the Constellation club and the influential Pitchfork Music Festival, Mike Reed is a key figure in the Chicago music scene, where he engages in regular collaborations with a variety of young musicians as well as with veterans such as Roscoe Mitchell and Wadada Leo Smith. His relationship with Amsterdam is particularly special, owing to his Indonesian-Dutch ancestry. In 2013, his band People, Places and Things released the album Second Cities: Volume 1, with pieces by Dutch composers such as Guus Janssen, Sean Bergin and Eric Boeren.

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Stop using mixed race people as symbols of interracial unity to ease your white guilt

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Media Archive, Social Justice on 2018-11-13 03:16Z by Steven

Stop using mixed race people as symbols of interracial unity to ease your white guilt

Friktion
2018-05-09

Sophie Buzak-Achiam


Illustration: Mette Clante

Dutch beer company Heineken has recently faced backlash for its “lighter is better” ad, where a bartender with light skinned Latino appearance slides a beer past three dark skinned Black people towards an Eurasian woman, with whom he shares a wink, before the slogan “sometimes lighter is better” appears. As a mixed race person, who might be racialised in a similar way to the exotic yet safely light skinned woman in the ad, this ad struck a well-known chord. Spending a good half of my life in a white Danish environment, I have often found my ambiguous racial appearance used by white people as a symbol of a conforming, non-threatening otherness. Although still seen as a person of color, I also embody a whiteness that can make me come across as safe mediator to ease racial tensions and white guilt.

Considering the overwhelming whiteness in European advertisement in general, I don’t believe it to be a coincidence that Heineken, as a white owned company, chooses to use people of color and racially ambiguous people as the stars of this ad. In representing the “lighter is better” demographic, the two lighter skinned actors become pawns to the white system which uses them to mask its racism, that becomes perhaps more subtle with the acceptance of some people of color…

Read the entire article here.

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The black Americans suing to reclaim their Native American identity

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2018-11-13 03:06Z by Steven

The black Americans suing to reclaim their Native American identity

The Guardian
2018-10-02

Caleb Gayle


Rhonda Grayson, with an image of her great-great grandfather Willie Cohee. Photograph: Brett Deering for the Guardian

Their ancestors were black slaves owned by Native Americans. Now they’re suing the Creek nation to fully restore their citizenship

Johnnie Mae Austin and her grandson, Damario Solomon-Simmons, can tell you everything about their ancestry. They can go back as far as 1810, the year Solomon-Simmons’ great-great-great-great-grandfather, Cow Tom, was born. With undeniable pride, they recount the man’s feats of bravery during the civil war, and his leadership within Oklahoma’s Creek population.

In fact, they are so determined to let the world know exactly who Cow Tom was that they’re suing the Creek nation to make sure his descendants aren’t forgotten.

Solomon-Simmons and his grandmother are black, but they argue they’re also Creek, and they’re fighting to reclaim their identity…

Red the entire article here.

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Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing on 2018-11-12 23:48Z by Steven

Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet

Works and Days
Volume 13, Numbers 1 & 2 (1995)
pages 181-193

Lisa Nakamura, Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor; Coordinator and Undergraduate Advisor for the Digital Studies Minor
University of Michigan

A cute cartoon dog sits in front of a computer, gazing at the monitor and typing away busily. The cartoon’s caption jubilantly proclaims, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog!” This image resonates with particular intensity for those members of a rapidly expanding subculture which congregates within the consensual hallucination defined as cyberspace. Users define their presence within this textual and graphical space through a variety of different activities‹commercial interaction, academic research, netsurfing, real time interaction and chatting with interlocutors who are similarly “connected”‹but all can see the humor in this image because it illustrates so graphically a common condition of being and self definition within this space. Users of the Internet represent themselves within it solely through the medium of keystrokes and mouse-clicks, and through this medium they can describe themselves and their physical bodies any way they like; they perform their bodies as text. On the Internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog; it is possible to “computer crossdress” (Stone 84) and represent yourself as a different gender, age, race, etc. The technology of the Internet offers its participants unprecedented possibilities for communicating with each other in real time, and for controlling the conditions of their own self-representations in ways impossible in face to face interaction. The cartoon seems to celebrate access to the Internet as a social leveler which permits even dogs to express freely themselves in discourse to their masters, who are deceived into thinking that they are their peers, rather than their property. The element of difference, in this cartoon the difference between species, is comically subverted in this image; in the medium of cyberspace, distinctions and imbalances in power between beings who perform themselves solely through writing seem to have deferred, if not effaced…

Read the entire article here or here.

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Misty Copeland: the trailblazing ballerina loved by Prince, Obama and Disney

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2018-11-12 03:26Z by Steven

Misty Copeland: the trailblazing ballerina loved by Prince, Obama and Disney

The Guardian
2018-11-07

Lyndsey Winship, Dance Critic

‘I had this awakening’ … Misty Copeland.
‘I had this awakening’ … Misty Copeland. Photograph: Danielle Levitt for the Observer

She thinks ballet’s broken – and has a plan to fix it. The star of Disney’s Nutcracker reboot talks about racism, nude shoes and growing up bendy

Ballet was definitely my escape,” says Misty Copeland. “It was the first thing I’d ever experienced in my life that was mine – only mine, not my five other siblings’. It gave me a voice, made me feel powerful.”

When Copeland discovered ballet she was 13, living with her mother and siblings in a motel in California. She was a shy, slight child who rarely spoke and tried not to be noticed. Twenty-three years later, hers is the kind of transformation story even ballet might think far-fetched. In 2015, she became the first black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre – and with that a spokesperson, poster girl, and bona fide star. Barack Obama sought her out as an adviser, Prince invited her on tour, Spike Lee wants her in his films, and people queue up to meet her at the stage door of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

And now the latest chapter in her real-life fairytale has begun to unfold. Copeland is dancing in Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a cinema revamp of the Christmas favourite starring Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman

Read the entire article here.

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Family Storytellers Inspired Professor-Historian

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-11-09 03:37Z by Steven

Family Storytellers Inspired Professor-Historian

Diverse Issues in Higher Education
2018-10-30

LaMont Jones, Senior Staff Writer


Dr. Allyson Hobbs

Dr. Allyson Hobbs comes from a family of storytellers, perhaps chief among them her Aunt Shirley.

It was Shirley Kitching’s fascinating stories shared during holiday and summer visits to Chicago – particularly one about an ancestor who was sent to the West Coast to live her life as a White woman by “passing” – that influenced Hobbs’ decision to become a historian and author.

Now Hobbs, an associate professor of American history and director of African and African-American Studies at Stanford University, spends a lot of time researching historical people, places and phenomena and bringing those stories to life for the public – the same way Kitching and other relatives did for her…

…“You have to understand Chicago to understand African-American history,” Hobbs contends, noting its longtime centrality to Black culture.

And that, along with one of Aunt Shirley’s stories, is what led to research and ultimately an award-winning book about the racial phenomenon of passing – when very light-skinned and European-featured Black Americans secretly pass themselves off as White people. Published in 2014, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life explored the history of passing in the United States from the 1700’s to current times…

Read the entire article here.

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Review: Sharon Block, Colonial Complexions

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-11-08 21:42Z by Steven

Review: Sharon Block, Colonial Complexions

The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History
2018-06-02

Vanessa Holden, Assistant Professor of History and African American and Africana Studies
University of Kentucky

Sharon Block, Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

At the opening of Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America, Sharon Block poses two provocative questions: “What were the meanings of black, white, and red in the colonial eighteenth century; and how did Anglo-American colonists describe people’s appearance?” (1) To answer these queries Block presents a cultural history race in Britain’s 18th century American colonies. She makes a careful study of the descriptors advertisers and editors used in missing colonial persons adds for runaway African descent and their European and Native American servants.

Block argues that the terms “black”; “white”; “red”; and “yellow” did not have static meanings that neatly corresponded to racial identities for 18th-century Anglo-colonists. Those terms evolved into markers of racial difference right alongside American constructions of race that would not become commonplace until the 19th century. Block challenges readers to understand how humoral theory influenced European colonists’ ideas about physical appearance and how the form of the missing person ad reflected and shaped the meanings of signifiers like age, height, and health for colonial subjects.

Block engages thirty-nine colonial newspapers from all over the across colonial America for her study, drawing from them both quantitative and qualitative data to support her arguments. From their pages, she gleans categories and descriptors used by 18th-century subjects to describe other 18th century subjects. “Through a range of descriptive choices,” she writes, “advertisers communicated the features they deemed significant for readers to know and revealed shared assumptions about bodily norms.”(5) Block remains very critical of her sources throughout and highlights both the form and the content of the ads she analyzes. She is well aware that the ads are part of an archive of mastery and makes sure to note this throughout. Block remains clear that the norms she excavates from these advertisements are norms for Anglo-colonizers and takes care to acknowledge African and Native American understandings of physiology. That the descriptors and signifiers she analyzes allow Anglo-colonists to flatten individual human experiences and bolster colonial systems of power is precisely her point.

Read the entire review here.

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Making Race in British Colonial North America

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-11-08 20:53Z by Steven

Making Race in British Colonial North America

Black Perspectives
2018-11-08

Elise A. Mitchell, Ph.D. Candidate in Atlantic World History and Caribbean and Latin American History
Department of History
New York University


Uncle Sam challenging the interference of John Bull, the personification of Great Britain, in the Civil War, 1861 (Photo: Library of Congress).

When confronted with three eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements seeking a missing man from Connecticut named Ishmael Mux of “a white Complexion,” a missing Pennsylvanian named John Daily who had a “black Complexion, bushy Hair,” and a man who went missing on his way to North Carolina named Andrew Vaughan with a “red” complexion, most readers would presume that their complexions, “white,” “black,” and “red,” indicated their race. However, as Sharon Block shows in her latest book, Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America, to eighteenth-century readers:

White, black, and red complexion did not automatically parallel European, African, and Native American heritages, respectively. In fact, Ishmael was described as mulatto; John as Irish; and Andrew was listed as an infantryman in the British 40th regiment, was born in Philadelphia, with no nationality or ethnicity specified. Skin and hair appearance were features related to, but not constitutive of, ethnic or national background (60-61).

This is but one of many examples Sharon Block uses to illustrate how the relationships between bodily descriptions, ethnicities, and racial meaning are not transhistorical, but developed through contextually specific discourses that have changed over time (83). Block, a digital humanist and historian of race, gender, rape, sexuality, and the body, examined thirty-nine British North American colonial newspapers published between 1750 and 1775 and analyzed over 4000 advertisements for missing enslaved and free people. Her ambitious study of these advertisements reveals how British North American colonists constructed race through quotidian discourses. Colonial Complexions is a crucial contribution to the history of race and a noteworthy model for digital age historical methodology…

Read the entire review here.

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