“Self-Portrait in Black and White” doesn’t meaningfully engage with centuries of work from black-identifying scholars who wrote accessibly about their backgrounds, especially those with mixed-race ancestry.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-10-27 17:15Z by Steven

Nor is he [Thomas Chatterton Williams] the first thinker to ponder how multiracial people navigate a world so obsessed with the minutiae of race. Self-Portrait in Black and White doesn’t meaningfully engage with centuries of work from black-identifying scholars who wrote accessibly about their backgrounds, especially those with mixed-race ancestry. Nella Larsen’s novel, Passing, was published nearly a century ago; the former NAACP leader Walter White published his memoir, A Man Called White, in 1948. Upon his death in 1955, The New York Times wrote that the fair-skinned White “could easily have joined the 12,000 Negroes who pass the color-line and disappear into the white majority every year in this country. But he deliberately sacrificed his comfort to publicize himself as a Negro and to devote his entire adult life to completing the emancipation of his people.” Absent from Williams’s memoir is any critical analysis of texts written by White or even by major figures such as Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Angela Davis, or Malcolm X.

Hannah Giorgis, “A Simplistic View of a Mixed-ish America,” The Atlantic, October 26, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/10/mixed-ish-thomas-chatterton-williams-race/600679/.

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Identity angst is a luxury of the privileged. And I was privileged. And I was/am angst.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-10-27 16:28Z by Steven

Identity angst is a luxury of the privileged. And I was privileged. And I was/am angst. The fact that I have time space and a vocabulary to tease out my own relationship to race and represent Asian, and to lobby for more gender equity or fight for diversity in Western media and culture, means that I am already living my mother’s American dream. It wouldn’t look like that to her. Nope. She used to sigh and roll her eyes when I did shows like “Birth of a nASIAN” at the Smithsonian about Asian American identities. She was furious when I got into Juilliard because it meant I was not going to morph into a blonde doctor by sheer force of her will. And she would still be mad today that I am not pursuing her dream of passing as one of the Real Housewives of Assimilation Hills.

Kate Rigg, “My Asian Mom bought me a Blonde Wig.Medium, October 25, 2019. https://medium.com/@katerigg/my-asian-mom-bought-me-a-blonde-wig-6158df9c7a3a.

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With dark skin, a braided wig, a feathered war bonnet, and a name like Young Deer, he could easily “pass” for a Plains Indian and entertain audiences with thrilling stories of the Old West or dance to the beat of a tom-tom. His marriage to Lillian St. Cyr (1884-1974) would give him that chance.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-10-26 21:27Z by Steven

Instead, [James] Young Deer began to create a new identity and in his own way “discovered” his Indian roots. After all, “going Indian” might open the door to other opportunities, especially in an era of dime novels and Wild West Shows. With dark skin, a braided wig, a feathered war bonnet, and a name like Young Deer, he could easily “pass” for a Plains Indian and entertain audiences with thrilling stories of the Old West or dance to the beat of a tom-tom. His marriage to Lillian St. Cyr (1884-1974) would give him that chance.

Angela Aleiss, “Who Was the Real James Young Deer?Bright Lights Film Journal, April 30, 2013. https://brightlightsfilm.com/who-was-the-real-james-young-deer-the-mysterious-identity-of-the-pathe-producer-finally-comes-to-light.

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“That fascinates me that there was a black person who had white privilege and was cognizant of his ethnicity,” he said. “When you really think about it, he kinda wasn’t a black person when he was there. That’s such a juxtaposition for me.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-10-26 20:13Z by Steven

“That fascinates me that there was a black person [Samuel Codes Watson] who had white privilege and was cognizant of his ethnicity, he said. “When you really think about it, he kinda wasnt a black person when he was there. Thats such a juxtaposition for me.Tylonn J. Sawyer

Micah Walker, “He passed as a white student at U-M — but was actually college’s first black enrollee,” The Detroit Free Press, October 19, 2019. https://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/2019/10/19/samuel-codes-watson-unviersity-michigan-tylonn-j-sawyer/3992118002/.

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“Our society is racially illiterate in general, and the greatest illiteracy is to be in the presence of a multiracial person.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-10-26 18:42Z by Steven

“It’s really hard for administrations to catch up,” says G. Reginald Daniel, PhD, professor and vice chair in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. One of the key areas lagging behind in universities is student counseling. “There are special kinds of microaggressions that come with multiracial identity,” says Daniel. “Our society is racially illiterate in general, and the greatest illiteracy is to be in the presence of a multiracial person.”

Kristal Brent Zook, “Universities Are Still Struggling to Provide for Mixed-Race Students,” Zora, September 23, 2019. https://zora.medium.com/universities-are-still-struggling-to-provide-for-mixed-race-students-d291d89c5b60.

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“My mama would go around town, pushing my sister and I in a cart to the grocery store, and people would actually come up to her and lecture her. They would say, ‘Do you know what you’ve done?'”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-26 01:45Z by Steven

Her [Brittany Howard’s] most striking lyrics come on Goat Head [in her album Jaime], as she discusses growing up as the child of a poor, interracial couple in rural Alabama.

“When I was born – or rather when my sister was born in 1984 – that was like the first wave of mixed babies, little brown babies,” she says.

“My mama would go around town, pushing my sister and I in a cart to the grocery store, and people would actually come up to her and lecture her. They would say, ‘Do you know what you’ve done?'”

In the song, she recalls an incident that happened when she was a baby, but was told about later, where “someone cut off a goat’s head, and they put it in the back of my dad’s car and slashed his tyres, and smeared blood all over his car”.

“It’s always been a part of me, that story,” says Howard. “Because Athens was a beautiful, peaceful country place, where people are neighbours and we really care about each other. But there’s a racial line, or there was at least, and that’s why I wanted to write that song. Just to explain where I was coming from.”

Mark Savage, “Brittany Howard finds freedom after Alabama Shakes,” BBC News, September 25, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-49808839.

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But in Puerto Rico and other parts of Latin America where racial mixing was common, there are numerous ways to identify racially, with different names for different combinations of skin tones, hair textures, and facial features, such as “negra,” “trigueña,” or “morena.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-22 02:07Z by Steven

In the United States, racial segregation enforced strict political and social barriers between Blacks and whites long after slavery. (“One drop” of African blood designated you as “Black,” no matter what your complexion or ethnicity.) But in Puerto Rico and other parts of Latin America where racial mixing was common, there are numerous ways to identify racially, with different names for different combinations of skin tones, hair textures, and facial features, such as negra, trigueña, or morena.

It’s one of the reasons that not every Latino who has brown skin or African ancestry calls themselves “Black” or “Afro-Latinx“—and some might even take offense to the suggestion that they should be called anything but Puerto Rican.

Natasha S. Alford, “This Afro-Latina Started a Magazine in Puerto Rico to Celebrate Black Beauty,” The Oprah Magazine, September 20, 2019. https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a29107354/afro-latinos-puerto-rico-magazine/.

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Many mixed-race people are not permitted to fully determine their own identity because of how the world insists on defining them. That’s when hair can represent a manifesto of self.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-22 01:46Z by Steven

Hair is Africa’s most enduring marker in America, the phenotype most likely to persist through generations of interracial children. Hair is what black folks look at when trying to determine who is one of us. Many mixed-race people are not permitted to fully determine their own identity because of how the world insists on defining them. That’s when hair can represent a manifesto of self.

Jesse Washington, “The untold story of wrestler Andrew Johnson’s dreadlocks,” The Undefeated, September 18, 2019. https://theundefeated.com/features/the-untold-story-of-wrestler-andrew-johnsons-dreadlocks/.

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It has become commonplace to acknowledge the following point, but it bears repeating anyway: The idea of racial classification, as we understand it now, stretches back only to Enlightenment Europe.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-19 23:15Z by Steven

It has become commonplace to acknowledge the following point, but it bears repeating anyway: The idea of racial classification, as we understand it now, stretches back only to Enlightenment Europe. I have stayed in inns in Germany that have been continuously operating longer than this calamitous thought. But even though we can trace race’s origins without much difficulty, it seems impossible — and worse than that, woefully naïve — even to speak of an end to such persistent and flattening thinking, thinking that has led to so much human suffering, precluded and squandered so much human potential. And yet I am convinced that we will never overcome the evils of racism as long as we fail first to imagine and then to conjure a world free of racial categorization and the hierarchies it necessarily implies.

Thomas Chatterton Williams, “My Family’s Life Inside and Outside America’s Racial Categories,” The New York Times Magazine, September 17, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/17/magazine/black-white-family-race.html.

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For someone so utterly unsentimental and sternly rational about race and blackness, he indulged his wife’s strange neoessentialist belief in “hybrid vigor”—that is, her belief that their daughter’s racial fusion of black and white represented the birth of a new, superior race.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-19 23:04Z by Steven

He [George Schuyler] was a man of contradictions. For someone so utterly unsentimental and sternly rational about race and blackness, he indulged his wife’s [Josephine Cogdell] strange neoessentialist belief in “hybrid vigor”—that is, her belief that their daughter’s racial fusion of black and white represented the birth of a new, superior race. With Schuyler’s help, his wife turned their only daughter into a social experiment, raising Philippa on a scientifically prepared diet of raw meat, unpasteurized milk, and castor oil, and keeping her in near isolation from other children. The child’s strange upbringing was both a raging success and a terrible failure. Philippa learned to read at two, became an accomplished pianist at four, and a composer by five. She was a child celebrity, a kind of black Shirley Temple with a high IQ who became the subject of scores of articles in publications such as Time, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, and was roundly hailed as a genius. There is a poignant moment in Kathryn Talalay’s biography of Philippa Schuyler, Composition in Black and White, when Philippa is thirteen and her parents finally show her the detailed scrapbook they’ve been keeping about her upbringing and career—notes and articles they’ve been keeping diligently over the years. Philippa, rather than being touched, was horrified to realize, with sudden clarity, all the ways she’d been her parents’ social experiment and “puppet.” In the years that followed, she grew increasingly disillusioned with America, her own blackness, and the musical career of her youth. Like a character out of Black No More, she eventually changed her name and began to pass as white—as an Iberian-American named Filipa Montera. She spent most of her adult life overseas, still playing music, but less seriously, and trying to find herself in various romantic affairs. She eventually tried to reinvent herself as an international journalist and children’s advocate, and in 1967 she died in a helicopter crash while attempting to evacuate war orphans out of Vietnam.

Danzy Senna, “George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time,” The New York Review of Books, January 19, 2018. https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/01/19/george-schuyler-an-afrofuturist-before-his-time/.

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