Dutch Children of African American Liberators: Race, Military Policy and Identity in World War II and Beyond

Posted in Books, Europe, History, Monographs, United States on 2020-10-11 02:24Z by Steven

Dutch Children of African American Liberators: Race, Military Policy and Identity in World War II and Beyond

McFarland
October 2020
50 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
6×9
Softcover ISBN: 978-1-4766-7693-7
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4766-4114-0

Mieke Kirkels and Chris Dickon

In the Netherlands, a small group of biracial citizens has entered its eighth decade of lives that have been often puzzling and difficult, but which offer a unique insight into the history of race relations in America. Though their African American fathers had brought liberation from Nazi tyranny at the end of World War II, they had arrived in a segregated American military that derived from a racially divisive American society. Decades later, some of their children could finally know of a father’s identity and the life he had led after the war. Just one would be able to find an embrace in his arms, and just one to visit her father’s American grave after 73 years. But they could now understand their own Dutch lives in the context of their fathers’ lives in America. This book relates their experiences, offering fresh insight into the history of American race relations.

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Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2020-09-13 01:55Z by Steven

Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Catapult
2020-09-10

Tari Ngangura


May Ayim with Audre Lorde/Photograph via audrelordeberlin.com

There have always been people suffering from anti-Blackness. And May Ayim highlights the continuity of the Black experience—not only her own, but those before her as well.

In 1986, Afro-German author and poet May Opitz—better known as May Ayim—co-edited the anthology, Showing Our Colours: Afro-German Women Speak Out. The book carries the stories of Afro-German women and their volatile, often violent experiences with anti-Blackness, belonging, and sexism in the European nation. Showing Our Colours remains a seminal offering in works that claim the existence and legitimacy of Black history within Europe, and also examines Germany’s specific role in the nineteenth century colonization of Africa—including the genocide in Namibia, which saw over one hundred thousand of the Herero, Nama, and San people killed by the German regime from 1904 until 1908.

Those who survived the genocide were locked in concentration camps, a precursor to those that would be utilized in the Holocaust. Showing Our Colours is as much about claiming space as it is about holding Germany accountable to its imperial history and its effects on the contemporary realities of Black immigrants living in the country. The book also outlines political shifts through the ages that saw terms like Moor, Negro, and African morph into racial epithets that would later be used by pseudoscientists to justify anti-Black racism, fascism, and medical bias.

Ayim died by suicide in 1996, and in her life and death, I see a testament to the resilience of Black women, and an indictment of insidious white supremacy that makes Black life a fragile negotiation between visibility and erasure. Since her death, Ayim’s work has been revisited most often by young Afro-Germans searching for the language and tools to explore their Blackness and womanhood alongside a European history that interrupted their ancestry and systematically destabilizes their present. For Afro-Germans, and especially the youth who have lived through global Black Lives Matter conversations, who witnessed police brutality on both a national and global scale, it is not enough to be simply German. It’s in this space that Ayim’s work is finding new eyes…

I spoke with Marny Garcia Mommertz, a Black-German researcher born in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, about how the late author’s work has been something of a map, detailing similar experiences of othering, and a reminder that her contemporary reality is not simply of her own making, but part of a larger structural legacy of oppression…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2020-09-11 02:13Z by Steven

The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven

The New York Times
2020-09-04

Patricia Morrisroe


The violinist George Bridgetower has, like so many other Black artists, been largely forgotten by a history that belongs to those who control the narrative. The Trustees of the British Museum, via Art Resource, NY

George Bridgetower, the original dedicatee of the “Kreutzer” Sonata, was a charismatic prodigy but faded into history.

Six months after Beethoven contemplated suicide, confessing his despair over his increasing deafness in the 1802 document known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, he was carousing in taverns with a charismatic new comrade, George Polgreen Bridgetower. This biracial violinist had recently arrived in Vienna, and inspired one of Beethoven’s most famous and passionate pieces, the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

Beethoven even dedicated the sonata to Bridgetower. But the irritable composer — who would later remove the dedication to Napoleon from his Third Symphony — eventually took it back.

While Napoleon didn’t need Beethoven to secure his place in history, this snub reduced Bridgetower to near obscurity. Though his name was included in Anton Schindler’s 1840 biography of Beethoven, he was described inaccurately as “an American sea captain.” Like so many Black artists prominent in their lifetimes, he has been largely forgotten by a history that belongs to those who control the narrative.

Bridgetower was born on Aug. 13, 1778, in eastern Poland, and christened Hieronymus Hyppolitus de Augustus. His father, Joanis Fredericus de Augustus, was of African descent; his mother, Maria Schmid, was German-Polish, making Bridgetower what was then known as a mulatto, a person of mixed race. (The poet Rita Dove’s 2008 book “Sonata Mulattica,” an imagined chronicle of Bridgetower’s life, has helped raise his profile a bit in recent years.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Suddenly a Person of Color [Plötzlich Person of Color]

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2020-08-26 00:50Z by Steven

Suddenly a Person of Color [Plötzlich Person of Color]

Die Zeit
Hamburg, Germany
2020-08-14

Von Fernanda Thome de Souza

Graciously translated from German into English for me by Gyavira Lasana and his wife Anne.


Ein Leben in Abhängigkeit von der Beurteilung der eigenen Hautfarbe: in Brasilien Subjekt, in Deutschland Objekt © . liane ./​unsplash.com

In Brazil, I was white and privileged, but in Germany I was not white enough. That told me a lot about racism and social participation.

Fernanda Thome de Souza, born in Sao Paulo, has lived in Berlin since 2008, working as a freelance writer, journalist and copywriter. She is a guest author of “10 to 8.” © private

In my first months in Berlin, when I was in the city, I was busy reading subway plans, translating social codes and discovering new landscapes. So I didn’t immediately notice that there was something particularly uncomfortable for me behind the differences and the new.

At some point, in the subway, in the supermarket, at work, I began to feel a disturbing look at my body, burdened with a reproach I had never experienced before. To this day, this gaze, which is determined in transmitting its message, accompanies me. He draws a clear line: that of the territory to which he belongs, where I am read as a stranger, the one that comes from outside.

My skin is dark, my eyebrows are thick, my hair is black and curled. Where I was born, in Brazil, I am white. A fact that is often difficult for Germans to understand. In Berlin I discovered myself as a Person of Color. This process did not happen overnight, but it definitely began with the perception of this depifting gaze.

While, as white people in Brazil, I have the legitimacy to occupy spaces – whether public, academic, professional, or cultural – as a matter of course, my presence here is called into question. While I live in Brazil the privilege of neutrality (I am the center, the “normal”, the subject), in Germany the equation has reversed. Because of my appearance, I was transformed into “the other”, an object of the edge, prone to the arbitrariness of the German white gaze.

I have been living with this ambiguity for twelve years. That, of course, changed me. Oscillating between different sides of social geographies, even from a safe place, has forced me to look beyond my horizons and question my own role. I have started to talk to other Brazilians living in a similar situation in Berlin. I wanted to know if it was just me. What is whiteness in Brazil? Why do we in Germany stop being white? How can the complex backgrounds be described? What have we learned and how has it changed our self-image and our relationship with the society to which we belong?

Legacy of European Colonialism

Brazil is an extremely racist country – a legacy of centuries-old European colonialism. After the abolition of slavery, at the beginning of the 20th century, a group of Brazilian intellectuals was first engaged in formulating the self-image of the young Republic of Brazil. Based on ethnic mixing, the theory of a supposed harmony between the different groups was developed.

Notwithstanding the fact that this ethnic mix-up was caused by the rape of black and indigenous women by white men, the idea served as evidence that there was no racism in Brazil and that in this tropical paradise, everyone, regardless of color or origin, would have equal opportunities. The notorious myth of so-called racial democracy was thus born and disseminated. For decades, racism has been kept out of debate and public policy, and has increasingly become established in all areas of social structure.

Today, the statistics show the brutal ethnic inequality in the country. While the indigenous population has been almost wiped out and now accounts for only 0.4 percent of total society, blacks – just over half of the total population – are systematically oppressed. Seventy-five percent of those killed by the police, 64 percent of the prison inmates and 75 percent of the poorest are black. Every 23 minutes, a young black man is killed in Brazil. Their biographies and struggles are not in the history books, and their religions are still subject to constant persecution.

“Whiteness” in Brazil

Germans, Italians, Jews, Syrians, Lebanese, Japanese and all the other groups that were part of the various waves of migration that have arrived in Brazil since the 19th century were accepted and treated as free people. This immediately gave them advantages and privileges. While the newly liberated black population was let down by the system, immigrants were given subsidized travel tickets and a job guarantee. Europeans were often given additional land for the establishment of colonies, driven by an effort to “wash” the Brazilian population whiter. In Brazil, color is inextricably linked to the class.

“Being white in Brazil means not suffering from racism,” says Berlin-based writer Fred Di Giacomo Rocha. It is said that they are not constantly being watched in the supermarket, that they are not afraid of the police and that they have access to lawyers. It is the knowledge that one’s own rights are respected by the institutions.

The choreographer and stage artist Rodrigo Garcia Alves explains the inequality in the state of schools. “Sending your own children to the best private school in the city is a mark of being white. These are only white environments. Because Brazil is not only a racist country, but also a classicist country.” In fact, enough teachers, hot meals, and school safety are a right reserved for whites, who are already entering the brutal competition for the best university places with a head start. In this context, privilege softens with reward for achievement – social inequality is entrenched.

In the 21st century, being white in Brazil still means coming through the front door and having domestic workers, who are mostly black and underpaid. “It’s impossible not to talk about who is serving and who is being served,” says school social worker D. Wiltshire Soares. “These relationships, which on the one hand are very emotional, on the other hand are also full of violence,” adds Lia Ishida, a Doctoral student in German studies. “It’s about integrating these people into the family without making them equal. A situation very similar to slavery.”

Fall into the European colonial fantasy

We white Brazilians come to Germany with European passports, higher education, fluent English, university places, money in our pockets and all the security, self-respect and arrogance that has been granted to us throughout our lives through historical privileges. Our bodies do not carry the traumas of racism. And yet we have definitely lost the “white status” we were used to here. And what does that mean?

As the Portuguese interdisciplinary artist and author Grada Kilomba put it in her book Plantation Memories, although there are Germans of all skin colors, the colonial fantasy prevails that being German means being white. It is a racism in which prejudice and discrimination arise not from an idea of the superiority of individual “races”, but on the basis of ideas of nation, ethnicity and cultural differences, incompatibilities and hierarchies.

What racism does to all of us

Since being German in the hegemonic imagination means first of all being white, I am automatically marked as someone who does not belong here.

This is the first “transition” of a Brazilian who ceases to be white: the loss of neutrality and the position of the subject. We will immediately become objects that are observed and questioned. Kilomba explains this by referring in her text to the Afro-German experience. While the white subject is preoccupied with the question “What do I see?”, the subject of color is forced to deal with the question “What do they see?” And what they see is not born of a mere interest in the story we have to tell, but from the projection of white fantasies about what we should be.

The experiences of the Brazilians I have spoken to coincide with mine. Deprived of our human complexity, we are reduced to stereotypes that in no way reflect our identity. If you read a Brazilian with a beard as a “terrorist Arab,” he becomes a “harmless Iberian” without a beard. The clothes we wear tell us whether we are read as Syrians or Italians, which means being considered suspicious or not.

Subordination and condescension

Because of this colonial dialectic, as Grada Kilomba defines it, the white subject deserves a position of authority, while the racist is forced to subordination. This hierarchy in relations is repeated from one area to another and represents a loss of status for Brazilians, who until then saw themselves as whites. Actually accustomed to hegemony, our mobility is suddenly monitored, our environment is reduced, our habits and behaviors are questioned and corrected, and finally our experiences and points of view are simplified and disqualified.

When Di Giacomo Rocha presented his latest book at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019, he criticized the German condescension. The universal voice is a white domain. In his opinion, Latin American literature only gains space when it talks about its regionality, its exotic peripheral reality.

Theories like Kilomba’s have helped me not only to process my experiences in Germany, but above all to understand the extent of my privileges, their structures and the origins of violence. There is an urgent need to break with the white idea of universality. The systematic small-termization of marginal voices is not only used to secure the status quo. It allows the privileged classes to be ignorant of realities of which they prefer not to know. If there is a moral and legitimate obligation to combat racism, there is an urgent need for stolen spaces to be returned to their actual owners. It is necessary to read these voices, to listen to them and to get to know them. Until we irrevocably understand what racism does to us as a society and as a human being.

Read the article in German here.

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Large DNA Study Traces Violent History of American Slavery

Posted in Africa, Articles, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2020-07-24 03:03Z by Steven

Large DNA Study Traces Violent History of American Slavery

The New York Times
2020-07-23

Christine Kenneally


An 1823 cross-section diagram of a ship used to carry enslaved people. incamerastock/Alamy

Scientists from the consumer genetics company 23andMe have published the largest DNA study to date of people with African ancestry in the Americas.

More than one and a half centuries after the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended, a new study shows how the brutal treatment of enslaved people has shaped the DNA of their descendants.

The report, which included more than 50,000 people, 30,000 of them with African ancestry, agrees with the historical record about where people were taken from in Africa, and where they were enslaved in the Americas. But it also found some surprises.

For example, the DNA of participants from the United States showed a significant amount of Nigerian ancestry — an unexpected finding, as the historical record does not show evidence of enslaved people taken directly to the United States from Nigeria.

At first, historians working with the researchers “couldn’t believe the amount of Nigerian ancestry in the U.S.,” said Steven Micheletti, a population geneticist at 23andMe who led the study…

…The 23andMe project found this general pattern, but also uncovered a startling difference in the experience of men and women between regions in the Americas.

The scientists calculated that enslaved women in the United States contributed 1.5 times more to the modern-day gene pool of people of African descent than enslaved men. In the Latin Caribbean, they contributed 13 times more. In Northern South America, they contributed 17 times more.

What’s more, in the United States, European men contributed three times more to the modern-day gene pool of people of African descent than European women did. In the British Caribbean, they contributed 25 times more…

Read the entire article here.

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Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas

Posted in Africa, Articles, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2020-07-24 02:41Z by Steven

Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas

The American Journal of Human Genetics
Published: 2020-07-23
37 pages
DOI:10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.06.012

Steven J. Micheletti
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Kasia Bryc
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Samantha G. Ancona Esselmann
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

William A. Freyman
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Meghan E. Moreno
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

G. David Poznik
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Anjali J. Shastri
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

23andMe Research Team
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California

Sandra Beleza
University of Leicester, Leicester, United Kingdom

Joanna L. Mountain
23andMe, Inc., Sunnyvale, California


GettyImages

According to historical records of transatlantic slavery, traders forcibly deported an estimated 12.5 million people from ports along the Atlantic coastline of Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries, with global impacts reaching to the present day, more than a century and a half after slavery’s abolition. Such records have fueled a broad understanding of the forced migration from Africa to the Americas yet remain underexplored in concert with genetic data. Here, we analyzed genotype array data from 50,281 research participants, which—combined with historical shipping documents—illustrate that the current genetic landscape of the Americas is largely concordant with expectations derived from documentation of slave voyages. For instance, genetic connections between people in slave trading regions of Africa and disembarkation regions of the Americas generally mirror the proportion of individuals forcibly moved between those regions. While some discordances can be explained by additional records of deportations within the Americas, other discordances yield insights into variable survival rates and timing of arrival of enslaved people from specific regions of Africa. Furthermore, the greater contribution of African women to the gene pool compared to African men varies across the Americas, consistent with literature documenting regional differences in slavery practices. This investigation of the transatlantic slave trade, which is broad in scope in terms of both datasets and analyses, establishes genetic links between individuals in the Americas and populations across Atlantic Africa, yielding a more comprehensive understanding of the African roots of peoples of the Americas.


Figure 1 Location of Individuals and Cohorts
Arrows highlight the general direction of the triangular trade routes between continents during the transatlantic slave trade. Pie charts indicate the documented number of enslaved people embarking out of regions of Africa (∼12.5 million total) and disembarking in regions of the Americas (∼10.5 million total) between 1515 and 1865. Representatives of regions of the Americas and Europe indicated that they each have four grandparents born within the same country or US state. Representatives of Atlantic Africa either indicated four grandparents born within or historical ties to a country. Points indicate the ∼16,000 unique grandparental geo-coordinates provided by participants. ∗Cape Verde is an Atlantic African island country that, in the 15th century, was colonized by the Portuguese and inhabited primarily by enslaved people from Senegambia.

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In Irish orphanages, being ‘coloured’ was a defect. I wish Mam had lived to see Black Lives Matter

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Europe, Media Archive on 2020-07-05 20:03Z by Steven

In Irish orphanages, being ‘coloured’ was a defect. I wish Mam had lived to see Black Lives Matter

The Irish Times
2020-07-04

Jess Kavanagh


Jess Kavanagh with Lorraine Maher of I Am Irish

Black Irish Lives: Multiculturalism is seen as new. But Ireland has generations of mixed-race people

I’m not a fan of weddings, but I made sure not to miss my cousin Jamie’s big day. Jamie and I always got along; racially ambiguous like myself, he looks more indigenous Latin American via Dublin 3 but is actually southeast Asian-Italian. After the wedding another cousin, annoyed at her lack of an invitation to the dinner, is spitting some low-grade venom as I roll a cigarette. I tune in at the worst moment.

“I don’t know why anyone ever told you your grandfather was a doctor. He was a sailor – and everyone knew that.”

I’m taken aback. I don’t react. If you’ve experienced racism you know this moment: a surreal outburst, wildly out of context. It happens so quickly you tend to be left feeling only confusion and mild amusement. The rage creeps in hours, maybe days later.

My biological grandfather was a Nigerian medical student and my biological grandmother was a nurse when they met. The story of their affair changes. Until I was in my 20s I was told he was a student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland when they met, but that has shifted at times to them meeting in the UK. My mother was adopted as a newborn from a religious-run institution in Blackrock, Co Dublin, and my aunts and uncles – Nigerian-Irish, Indian-Irish, Filipino-Italian and North African-Irish – were also adopted as babies…

Read the entire article here.

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That Hair

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Books, Europe, Novels on 2020-04-10 20:13Z by Steven

That Hair

Tin House
2020-03-17
163 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-947793-41-5
eBook ISBN: 978-1-947793-50-7

Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida
Translated by Eric M. B. Becker

“The story of my curly hair,” says Mila, the narrator of Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida’s autobiographically inspired tragicomedy, “intersects with the story of at least two countries and, by extension, the indirect story of the relations among several continents: a geopolitics.” Mila is the Luanda-born daughter of a black Angolan mother and a white Portuguese father. She arrives in Lisbon at the tender age of three, and feels like an outsider from the jump. Through the lens of young Mila’s indomitably curly hair, her story interweaves memories of childhood and adolescence, family lore spanning four generations, and present-day reflections on the internal and external tensions of a European and African identity. In layered, intricately constructed prose, That Hair enriches and deepens a global conversation, challenging in necessary ways our understanding of racism, feminism, and the double inheritance of colonialism, not yet fifty years removed from Angola’s independence. It’s the story of coming of age as a black woman in a nation at the edge of Europe that is also rapidly changing, of being considered an outsider in one’s own country, and the impossibility of “returning” to a homeland one doesn’t in fact know.


That Hair

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Escaping Blackness

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, United States on 2020-03-07 02:03Z by Steven

Escaping Blackness

New York Review of Books
2020-03-26

Darryl Pinckney


Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York City, 2019
Dominique Nabokov

Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race
by Thomas Chatterton Williams
Norton, 174 pp., $25.95

The black individual passing for white in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American fiction by white writers is usually a woman, and usually when the truth emerges, the purity of the white race is saved. However, in An Imperative Duty (1891) by William Dean Howells, a Boston girl is ashamed to find out that legally she is colored, but her white suitor marries her anyway and takes her off to a life in Italy. In the beginning of Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900), a “high-bred” black man in North Carolina returns to his hometown to ask his sister to take his dead white wife’s place and bring up his son. A young aristocrat she meets in her new white life proposes marriage, but soon learns the truth of her origins. Literary convention, in the form of a fever, kills her. The white suitor realizes too late that love conquers all. He promises to keep the brother’s secret.

The secret was as radical as Chesnutt could get. From a North Carolina family of “free issue” blacks—meaning emancipated since colonial times—Chesnutt had blond hair and blue eyes. He wouldn’t pass for white, because if he became famous then he chanced someone appearing from his past. He preferred to pursue reputation as a black man. Chesnutt had cousins who crossed the color line and he never told on them, viewing passing as an act of “self-preservation,” a private solution to the race problem. The big escape from being black was an American tradition. Three of Sally Hemings’s six children ended up living as white people.

The nameless narrator of James Weldon Johnson’s novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), a widower and a father, says little about his life as a white man. He is interested instead in his past as a black person, his life with different classes of black people, his wanderings around Europe as a young musician. When he returned to the United States and went on a folk song–collecting tour of the South, he witnessed a lynching—a black man being burned alive. Terrified, he got himself across the color line. He didn’t want to belong to a racial group so utterly without power…

Thomas Chatterton Williams, who belongs to the hip-hop generation of multiculturalism and diversity, is willing to risk being a throwback in his memoir/essay Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race. To speculate on the racial future, he goes back to the days when the black individual who could do so took the side exit from segregated life to personal freedom. He deals with passing for white, class privilege, and his hopes for the possibilities of race transcendence, knowing perfectly well that because he is light-skinned he can contemplate racial identity as being provisional, voluntary, situational, and fluid…

Read the entire review here.

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Black/white mixed-race experiences of race and racism in Poland

Posted in Articles, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2020-02-27 02:22Z by Steven

Black/white mixed-race experiences of race and racism in Poland

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Published online 2020-02-25
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2020.1729390

Bolaji Balogun
School of Sociology and Social Policy
University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom

Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Presidential Fellow in Ethinicty and Inequalities
University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

Whilst literature on race and ethnicity in Poland is growing, it has yet to fully grapple with the diverse range of racial identities in Poland. Simultaneously, despite calls for Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) to develop into a more global field, there remains a paucity of literature focusing on racial mixedness in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), and no substantive consideration of the lived experiences of mixed-race people in Poland. Taking these absences as our entry point, we bring Critical Mixed Race Studies into conversation with pieces of literature on race and ethnicity in Poland in order to extend the theoretical and empirical terrain of both fields. Drawing upon data from interviews conducted with black/white mixed-race people in Poland, this article casts light on the lives of this nascent group, and specifically on their experiences of racism and exclusion in a society imagined as homogenously white.

Read or purchase the entire article here.

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