Biologically, We Are All Far More Alike Than Different

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2019-06-06 14:59Z by Steven

Biologically, We Are All Far More Alike Than Different

Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press
Boston, Massachusetts
2019-06-04

Christian Coleman, Associate Digital Marketing Manager

A Q&A with Angela Saini

Why are we seeing a resurgence of race science in the twenty-first century? Weren’t we supposed to be over this after World War II? The notion of “race” has been debunked in the world of science and is understood to be a social construct, but the idea of research-based racial differences is still with us—and has been with us since The Enlightenment. Science journalist Angela Saini tells this disturbing history in Superior: The Return of Race Science. Our blog editor Christian Coleman caught up with her to ask her about her book, the inspiration for it, and how to recognize the subtle signs of race science today.

Christian Coleman: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind writing Superior.

Angela Saini: For me, this is a book that has been bubbling since I was a child. I became a journalist in the first place because I became involved in antiracism movements at university while studying Engineering. But the time for this book was now, with the rise of the far-right and ethnic nationalism around the world. I wanted to put the rise of intellectual racism in historical and scientific context…

CC: What are some subtle examples of how we buy into the belief of biological racial differences today?

AS: I think it happens most clearly in medicine and DNA ancestry testing. When doctors tell us that certain groups are more susceptible to certain illnesses, without making clear that this may sometimes just be for cultural or socioeconomic reasons, it suggests we are biologically different. When firms say they can tell us where we are from by analysing our spit, without explaining how they do this or what it actually means, they also reinforce the idea of biological race…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Singular Power of Writing: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive on 2019-06-04 19:50Z by Steven

The Singular Power of Writing: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams

Los Angeles Review of Books
2019-04-12

Otis Houston
Portland, Oregon

Otis Houston interviews Thomas Chatterton Williams

THOMAS CHATTERTON WILLIAMS is the author of Losing My Cool, a memoir chronicling his experiences growing up in New Jersey as the son of a black father and a white mother and constructing an identity in the space between his love for hip-hop and for literature. His new book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, forthcoming from Norton in October, explores a further complication in the author’s already fraught self-conception, and the often-contradictory ways in which society views and reifies racial categorization.

The author spoke to me by Skype from his home in Paris, France, where he lives with his wife and two children.

OTIS HOUSTON: You’ve been critical of the ways in which writers conceptualize their identity on the page, and about different ways of thinking about identity in relation to society. I thought we could start by talking about some of these themes in your upcoming book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, which questions some of the metrics by which we understand race in the 21st century.

THOMAS CHATTERTON WILLIAMS: The book started for me in 2013 when my daughter, Marlow, was born. Prior to that, in 2012, I had written an op-ed in The New York Times kind of glibly and really confidently making the case that my kids would be black no matter what they looked like because it’s a kind of political stance more than a genetic identity.

My wife is French and she’s white, and it occurred to me that perhaps our kids would be kind of white-looking. But the reality of our daughter’s birth really struck me, and I realized that I couldn’t just send her out into the world with this antiquated logic of hypo-descent, which is really the slave master’s logic and reinforces some really bad stuff if you think about it for a minute, even though it has allowed the black community to have a lot of solidarity when they needed it.

We had this very Scandinavian-looking child, and for the first time in my life what I now call the fiction of race was thrust into my consciousness. It’s an experience that most people, black or white, don’t have to have because most people don’t live on the racial margins and don’t see how ridiculous it is to say something like, “My father is black, and my daughter is white, but they have the same smile.” And my daughter is blond-haired and has blue eyes and white skin, but she’s of 20 percent West African descent. Most people don’t actually have these kinds of contradictions. So, her birth really set me down this path. I wrote an essay about it for the Virginia Quarterly Review called “Black and Blue and Blond” about questioning and reassessing things I’d taken for granted, and Jonathan Franzen was kind enough to include it in the Best American Essays, which he edited in 2016…

Read the entire interview here.

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Do Women Have Superpowers? Gugu Mbatha-Raw Says Yes

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-06-03 19:18Z by Steven

Do Women Have Superpowers? Gugu Mbatha-Raw Says Yes

The New York Times
2019-05-10

Kathryn Shattuck


Emily Berl for The New York Times

When Gugu Mbatha-Raw signed up to be a superhero, little did she know she’d be squaring off against Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of the Marvel universe.

But two years later, “Fast Color” has found itself in theaters at the same time as “Avengers: Endgame” — and heralded as the antidote to men destroying the world to save it.

“It’s quite an interesting journey that it’s being compared and contrasted to a huge Marvel juggernaut, which was never our intention,” she said. “But I have to say I’m interested in the conversation. I haven’t always seen myself represented in those kinds of movies, as a lot of people haven’t.”

Mbatha-Raw is herself a fighter: In 2014, she broke through with Amma Asante’sBelle,” about the mixed-race daughter of an 18th-century British naval captain raised among the white aristocracy — a role she pursued for eight years. Months later, she transformed herself into a flailing pop superstar who divines peace through the music of Nina Simone in Gina Prince-Bythewood’sBeyond the Lights.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Black, White and Red All Over: Genevieve Gaignard

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-06-02 00:39Z by Steven

Black, White and Red All Over: Genevieve Gaignard

Musée: Vanguard of Photography Culture
2019-04-24

Ashley Yu

Genevieve Gaignard This American Beauty , 2019. Vintage magazine cutouts, clear acrylic, on panel, 48 x 36 x 2.5 in. (121.9 x 91.4 x 6.3 cm). Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.
Genevieve Gaignard
This American Beauty, 2019. Vintage magazine cutouts, clear acrylic, on panel, 48 x 36 x 2.5 in. (121.9 x 91.4 x 6.3 cm). Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Genevieve Gaignard’s first solo show “Black White and Red All Over” is currently exhibited at the Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago from April 5th-May 24th. The exhibition showcases Gaignard’s new body of mixed media artwork and a new site-specific installation. In this exhibition, the artist speaks on the intersecting representational issues of race, femininity and class in modern American society.

Ashley Yu: Why do you use photo collages of magazine cutouts as your medium of choice?

Genevieve Gaignard: I wouldn’t say this is my medium of choice per se. It’s more that I’m an artist that works in various mediums (photography, installation, sculpture and collage) in order to address the topics of gender, class and racial injustice in America. For me, it’s very instinctual to work with magazine images. I grew up collaging my bedroom walls as a teenager. I feel like, in a way, I’m taking from that memory and applying it to my practice…

Ashley: You often refer to the “invisibility” of growing up mixed-race in America. Would you explain that to us?

Genevieve: Sure. My particular experience growing up in a predominately white town and looking white to most people felt like I wasn’t really seen at all…

Read the entire interview here.

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Three Things the Jewish Community Can Do Better, According to a Mixed-Race Jewish Professional

Posted in Articles, Canada, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2019-05-24 20:42Z by Steven

Three Things the Jewish Community Can Do Better, According to a Mixed-Race Jewish Professional

My Jewish Learning
2018-05-23

Ruth Abusch-Magder, Education Director and Rabbi-in-Residence
Be’chol Lashon


Tema Smith

Tema Smith’s own experiences as a mixed race person shape her vision as a Jewish professional.

Tema Smith is often mistaken for white, but this mixed-race Jew is proud of both her Bahamian and Ashkenazi roots. She is also one of a growing number of Jews of color who are making careers in the Jewish world. We met up with Smith to learn about her professional life and personal experience and to hear what advice she has for Jewish institutions.

Be’chol Lashon: Tell us about your job.

Smith: I am the Director of Community Engagement at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada’s largest Reform congregation. Not only do I ensure that the basics of synagogue life, like becoming a member and connecting with the community, are smooth, but it is also my responsibility to keep the door wide open for prospective members. It also includes creating partnerships in the community and making connections more broadly…

…Be’chol Lashon: Does being mixed-race play into the work you do at Holy Blossom?

Smith: Being mixed-race has always given me a broader perspective on the work I do. I came into this work as someone who had only been an observer, and not as someone who grew up in the Jewish community, which has made me attuned to the experiences of those who are new to the community. As I mentioned before, the fact that we were not part of Toronto’s Jewish community had a lot to do with our family’s racial makeup. This makes me especially aware of the barriers to participation that people face and pushes me to work harder on inclusion, which is what we need to do to ensure the Jewish future as the demographics shift and we become more multicultural and multiracial. I find that my position as both an insider and outsider to Jewish life lets people open up to me. I am upfront about my identity, coming from both an interfaith and an interracial family. Because of that, I’ve noticed that it is not uncommon for people to share information about their lives that they are not sure the synagogue would welcome knowing, like their own faith journey or lack of observance.

Additionally, because I pass as a white Jew, I am able to walk into communal spaces and challenge some of the assumptions of who the Jewish community insiders are. My very existence often breaks down stereotypes of who we imagine to be a committed or engaged Jew…

Read the entire interview here.

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A Conversation With Adele Logan Alexander

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Passing, United States, Women on 2019-05-20 15:30Z by Steven

A Conversation With Adele Logan Alexander

Yale University Press
Fall/Winter 2019
page 18


Photo by Jossyan Musumeci.

What was your inspiration for writing this book [Princess of the Hither Isles: A Black Suffragist’s Story from the Jim Crow South]?

Since I was named for her, Adella Hunt Logan has intrigued and inspired me for decades, but she was always a mystery presence in my life. I only learned as an adult that she’d been a fierce suffrage advocate. Admirable, I thought, since my mother, my aunts, and I were also African American feminists.

How do you perceive Adella’s racial heritage?

Adella was a black woman who looked white, but I don’t believe that she felt ambiguous or hesitant about her identity as an African American. Virtually all of Adella’s male progenitors were white. Sometimes those relationships were coercive, but not always. Her maternal grandmother, whom I portray as the most important influence on her early life, was black, white, and Cherokee.

How did Adella’s racial ambiguity impact her life in the Jim Crow South?

She deliberately or inadvertently “passed” as white on many occasions, primarily to obtain medical care or to attend all-white, segregated suffrage conventions. Mostly her goal in “passing” was to learn and to bring back what she learned to her own African American community.

What sources did you use to reconstruct Adella’s story?

Years ago, I wrote about some of the rare free women of color in the Old South. At that time, I accessed myriad traditional sources—maps; school, church, and census records; letters; previous scholarship, and the like—but for this book, I’ve also tapped into the passions, lore, traditions, and memorabilia that I inherited, especially through oral history.

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Q&A | Genevieve Gaignard

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-15 21:10Z by Steven

Q&A | Genevieve Gaignard

Flaunt
2019-05-02

Morgan Vickery, Contributing Editor

Black Swan
Black Swan

Early this April, Chicago welcomed artist Genevieve Gaignard for a solo exhibition with Monique Meloche gallery. The exhibition entitled “Black White and Red All Over” features Gaignard’s newest body of mixed media works on panel as well as a domestic installation.

The Los Angeles-based artist received an MFA in Photography from Yale University. However, Gaignard’s work spans across several mediums including mixed-media, sculpture, and installations. Her work has been showcased across the nation and has found permanent homes at such places as the Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum, the FLAG Art Foundation, New York, and the San Jose Museum of Art. Gaignard’s work examines issues of race, class, femininity and their various intersections. As the daughter of an interracial couple, identity has informed a large part of Gaignard’s work, in which she invites the viewer to examine their own assumptions on identity…

…Many of the collage works touch on the topics of beauty and femininity. Each of them were composed with vintage wallpaper and vintage magazine cutouts in many variations. The pieces A Shout Out To My Fan Girls and In Full Bloom depict the many-faces of black beauty, especially as it relates to hair. Gaignard connected these works to her own identity as a biracial woman saying, “These are all pictures from wig advertisements. So, talking about how as black women we are told tame our hair and fit into the norm which is presented to us as white. That’s what you’re supposed to strive for, even for me. My hair is straightened right now, so I totally pass in a different way. I think about this constantly.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Republican, Fear, Love, Blood: The Many Meanings of Red

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, United States on 2019-05-15 20:07Z by Steven

Republican, Fear, Love, Blood: The Many Meanings of Red

Elephant
2019-04-29


In Full Bloom, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Genevieve Gaignard is invested in examining the cultural divide between being black and white in the US, navigating a place for all the incremental shades that exist in between. Her latest work brings identities, experiences, appearances and materials together in symbolic shades of black, white and red. Words by Charlotte Jansen

When I first saw Genevieve Gaignard‘s work, staged photographs she shot of herself in 2017, fresh out of Yale, I immediately identified. As biracial woman like Gaignard, my experiences growing up, too white within my family, too brown in my majority white school, I could relate to the pain of being projected onto, and never quite fitting in. Yet my experiences are quite different to hers, growing up in the south of the US, half black, half white, with red hair; listening to Billy Stewart and watching John Waters films. Music and drag have been major influences on her work, as well as her sense of family and femininity. America has always been louder, brasher and more confident than the UK when it comes to exploring race, for the good and the bad…

Can you tell me what your own relationship with magazines like Jet and Ebony has been?

I remember we had Jet and Ebony delivered to our house when I was growing up. My mother also held onto a lot of those magazines and had her own archive from years prior. Although I work with other magazines as well, such as Life, Women’s Day and McCall’s, it should be acknowledged that in those magazines, especially from the sixties and earlier, black people were not represented at all! It’s quite shocking to flip through an entire magazine from the forties or fifties and not see a single person of colour. It’s disturbing how white America refused to acknowledge an entire race of people. If black folks were present in all the magazines marketed to “Americans”, then I wouldn’t have had to make a point that I also source cut-outs from Jet and Ebony. My works aim to reflect a more inclusive view because that’s more like real life…

Read the entire interview here.

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Discovering the Illusion: An Interview with T Kira Madden

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Gay & Lesbian, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-04-21 16:56Z by Steven

Discovering the Illusion: An Interview with T Kira Madden

Asian American Writers’ Workshop
2019-03-18

Pik-Shuen Fung


T Kira Madden, Photo by Jac Martinez

“Magic and writing, it’s all misdirection, defamiliarization, and at its best, the ahhhhh moment of surprise.”

Nothing is steadfast in the childhood of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, only a slow unraveling. An only child born out of an affair between her wealthy white shoe-brand father and her Chinese-Hawaiian model mother, [T Kira] Madden went back and forth between the chaos of her home, where her parents struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, to the misery of her Boca Raton private school, where she faced ostracism as a queer biracial girl.

Madden writes, “I wanted love the size of a fist. Something I could hold, something hot and knuckled and alive.” To contain, to hold, to be vulnerable—these intense desires both shape and propel her exploration of grief, trauma, pain, and forgiveness. Composed as a kaleidoscope of darkly shimmering fragments, this courageous debut memoir is the documentation of one woman’s attempt to write down and rewrite her own history, so as to make space for more love.

I had the chance to speak with T Kira on a freezing afternoon in January. She welcomed me into her cozy home, where there were glowing candles, a pot of roasted buckwheat tea, and two energetic poodles who insisted on sitting around for the conversation…

Read the entire interview here.

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Illustrating the Messy Reality of Life as an Interracial Family

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Interviews, United States on 2019-04-21 14:51Z by Steven

Illustrating the Messy Reality of Life as an Interracial Family

The Atlantic
2019-04-12

Amal Ahmed


Mira Jacob / Courtesy of Penguin Random House

In her new graphic memoir, the author Mira Jacob documents conversations about love and race with multiple generations of her family.

When the novelist Mira Jacob’s son was 6, he started asking her a lot of questions about race and identity. It started with Michael Jackson: Was he brown or black or white, and what did he like best? Then his questions took a more serious turn: Was it bad to be brown in America? Though he was only 6, Jacob’s son, who is biracial, was old enough to understand the news at the time, which was fixated on the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, after a white cop shot a black teenager. He wanted to know whether white people were afraid of brown people. And what about his own father, who was white? Was he ever scared of brown people?

Jacob didn’t always know how to answer him in the moment. She remembered the confusing conversations about race and identity that she’d had as a child herself, growing up in one of the few South Asian families in New Mexico. But having those conversations with her son in the years leading up to Donald Trump’s presidency made her realize that there weren’t any easy answers to the question of what it means to grow up as a person of color in the United States.

Even though she’s a writer by trade, Jacob couldn’t find the words to describe what she was feeling. She often felt paralyzed thinking about the hurtful comments she might receive online if she did write openly about those tricky conversations. But she still felt the urge to record them somehow, and that led her to producing a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. The book, Good Talk, spans from her childhood in New Mexico to her more recent arguments with in-laws who wanted to vote for Trump and who she felt weren’t listening to her concerns about his racist rhetoric on the campaign trail…

Read the entire interview here.

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