Asian American Studies: Building Academic Bridges – Nitasha Sharma

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2011-01-31 00:22Z by Steven

Asian American Studies: Building Academic Bridges – Nitasha Sharma

The Department of African American Studies
Northwestern University, Evanston Illinois
October 2010

Ronald Roach

NITASHA TAMAR SHARMA Title: Assistant Professor of African-American and Asian American Studies, Northwestern University Education: Ph.D., Anthropology, University of alifornia at Santa Barbara; M.A., Anthropology, University of California at Santa Barbara; B.A., Anthropology, University of California at Santa Cruz Age: 35

With a dual appointment in the African-American Studies department and the Asian American studies program at Northwestern University, Dr. Nitasha Sharma is well positioned to produce scholarship that bridges the two disciplines. Sharma’s forthcoming book, based on her anthropology dissertation, Claiming Space, Making Race: South Asian American Hip Hop Artists, examines the influence that African-American-inspired hip hop culture has had on young musicians of South Asian descent, developing what some scholars see as fertile ground in ethnic studies—cross-cultural and comparative inquiry on U.S. racial and ethnic groups.

In her third year as an assistant professor at Northwestern, Sharma is regarded as a skillful and popular teacher. Her courses have included “The Racial and Gender Politics of Hip Hop”; “Race, Crime, and Punishment: The Border, Prisons, and Post-9/11 Detentions”; and “Cracking the Color Lines: Asian and Black Relations in the U.S.” Sharma has also done considerable work on mixed-race populations, including those in the U.S. and Trinidad. The African-American Studies department has awarded its Outstanding Teaching Award to Sharma in both her first and second years.

In addition, Sharma’s dual appointment has attracted the attention of Asian American studies scholars as well as Asian American student groups nationally and has resulted in numerous speaking engagements for the young professor. “(These individuals and organizations) really want to have the framework to understand the collaborations that my appointment symbolizes,” she says…

…“Nitasha is especially attractive in the way that she complicates our understanding of how race is constructed… And she is very good at demonstrating the impact of African-American culture and history on diverse populations around the globe,” Hine adds.

Sharma’s personal background may help explain her rise as a young scholar. She knew as a youngster growing up in Hawaii that she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parents, both professors. Her father, a retired University of Hawaii history professor and Indian immigrant, and mother, a still-active University of Hawaii anthropologist in Asian studies and Brooklyn, N.Y., native of Russian Jewish descent, met and married in the United Kingdom and settled in Hawaii. “I wanted the life that my parents had. They had summers off and traveled around the world; they were frequently at home during the week days… The talk at the dinner table was largely about academic life and their work,” Sharma says…

Read the entire article here.

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Black and White: The Relevance of Race-Unfinished Business

Posted in Anthropology, History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2011-01-31 00:00Z by Steven

Black and White: The Relevance of Race-Unfinished Business

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi chapter at Agusta State University
Activities for Fall 2001
5 pages

Christopher Murphy
Department of History and Anthropology
Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia

Several centuries ago, as Europeans first explored the distant, unknown reaches of the globe, it became clear that populations around the world differed enormously in appearance and behavior. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the emerging study of anthropology undertook to carefully measure and describe these physical variations and scientifically classify the “races” of humankind, as they were called, based on the results.

Initially, the criteria of racial classification were based on relatively rough and ready observable traits: skin color, body configuration, facial features, hair form, measurements of skull shape and volume and so on. Eventually, anthropologists recognized a people’s customary learned patterns of behavior as separate from their physique. Among social scientists customary behavior came to be called culture and physical characteristics came to be known as race…

…Anthropologist Conrad Kottak has pointed out an interesting aspect of social race attribution connected to interracial mating. When such matings occurred, the offspring was routinely assimilated to the race of the minority parent, a phenomenon Kottak calls “hypodescent”. This practice was undoubtedly caused in part by the fantasy fear of whites that interracial unions would somehow “dilute” or “corrupt” the racial qualities which many of them believed had led to their dominance. If whites were superior people, the founders of modern civilization as they liked to believe, only disaster could follow from such intimacy between the races.

Preventing all sexual contact between races and consequent miscegenation proved impossible, but putative racial purity had more than one line of defense. By clearly identifying the mixed race offspring as “Black” with the disabilities that status then carried, hypodescent ensured that these individuals could not enter the white world since the races lived in parallel, but unequal, social universes. If not for this practice, which was reinforced by law in some states and custom everywhere until after the Civil Rights movement, it might have been possible that the child’s status would follow that of the superordinate parent…

Read the entire paper here.

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Why Do We Consider Obama to Be Black?

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-30 23:23Z by Steven

Why Do We Consider Obama to Be Black?

New America Media

Ronald Takaki (1939-2009), Emeritus Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of California, Berkeley

A historical look at the the persistence of the “one drop” rule.

Editor’s Note: Historian and scholar Ronald Takaki uncovers the origins of the “one drop” rule that was key to defining race early in America’s history, and ponders whether we will ever move past it – even with a mixed race presidential candidate. Takaki, emeritus professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (updated edition to be published by Little, Brown in December).

Barack Obama is the son of a white mother and a black father. In Latin America, he would be identified as “mulatto” or half white and half black, and in South Africa as “colored” or between white and black.

Why are all African Americans, regardless of their mixed racial heritage, identified as black? What are the origins of the uniquely American “one drop” rule?

The first 20 Africans were landed in Jamestown in 1619. Yet, the planter class did not rush to bring more laborers from Africa. The elite wanted to reproduce an English society in America. By 1670, only 5 percent of the Virginia population was African.

Six years later, the planters abandoned their vision of a homogeneous society. During Bacon’s Rebellion, armed white and black laborers marched to Jamestown and burned it to the ground. After reinforcements of British troops had put down the insurrection, the planters turned to Africa as their primary source of labor: they wanted workers who could be enslaved and disarmed by law based on the color of their skin. The African population inclined upward to 40 percent.

The planters also stigmatized the complexion of the African laborer. They had earlier passed a law which law provided that the child of a slave mother would inherit the status of the mother, regardless of the race of the father. Thus a child of a slave mother and a white father would be a slave.

After Bacon’s Rebellion, the elite passed another law which enslaved the child of a white mother and a black father.

These two laws gave birth to the “one drop” rule. To be black, even part black was to be a slave, and to be a slave was to be black…

Read the entire article here.

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Sci fi offers surprising insights on race

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2011-01-30 22:18Z by Steven

Sci fi offers surprising insights on race

The Brandeis Hoot

Marissa Lainzi

Months and months of wading through red ink, volleying e-mails, coordinating, coordinating, and coordinating came to fruition for the Mixed Heritage Club on Friday night, as their much-anticipated speaker, Eric Hamako, gave the talk, “Monsters, Messiahs, or Something Else?” a discussion of mixed race issues in sci-fi movies.

Hamako, a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, intrigued the audience with his observations and theories regarding the portrayal of the “new” and “old” mixed race ideals in popular entertainment. Citing the movies Blade and Underworld, Hamako explained the portrayal of mixed-race people as “monsters” or “messiahs”—with vampires, humans, and werewolves becoming the racial metaphors.

The “monster” depiction of mixed-race people, Hamako explained, comes from the “old” conception of mixed race, which presented mixed-race people as deformed, immoral, or somehow wrong or inhuman. The “new” conception of mixed race, on the other hand, presents opposite stereotypes—that mixed-race people are beautiful, genetically superior, and the easy way to quash racism. Hamako calls this the “messiah” depiction…

Read the entire article here.

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Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Campus Life, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-30 04:36Z by Steven

Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above

The New York Times

Susan Saulny, National Correspondent

Race Remixed: A New Sense of Identity. Articles in this series will explore the growing number of mixed-race Americans.

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—In another time or place, the game of “What Are You?” that was played one night last fall at the University of Maryland might have been mean, or menacing: Laura Wood’s peers were picking apart her every feature in an effort to guess her race.

“How many mixtures do you have?” one young man asked above the chatter of about 50 students. With her tan skin and curly brown hair, Ms. Wood’s ancestry could have spanned the globe.

“I’m mixed with two things,” she said politely.

“Are you mulatto?” asked Paul Skym, another student, using a word once tinged with shame that is enjoying a comeback in some young circles. When Ms. Wood confirmed that she is indeed black and white, Mr. Skym, who is Asian and white, boasted, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” in affirmation of their mutual mixed lineage.

Then the group of friends—formally, the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association—erupted into laughter and cheers, a routine show of their mixed-race pride.

The crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: the country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by immigration and intermarriage…

…No one knows quite how the growth of the multiracial population will change the country. Optimists say the blending of the races is a step toward transcending race, to a place where America is free of bigotry, prejudice and programs like affirmative action.

Pessimists say that a more powerful multiracial movement will lead to more stratification and come at the expense of the number and influence of other minority groups, particularly African-Americans.

And some sociologists say that grouping all multiracial people together glosses over differences in circumstances between someone who is, say, black and Latino, and someone who is Asian and white. (Among interracial couples, white-Asian pairings tend to be better educated and have higher incomes, according to Reynolds Farley, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.)

Along those lines, it is telling that the rates of intermarriage are lowest between blacks and whites, indicative of the enduring economic and social distance between them.

Prof. Rainier Spencer, director of the Afro-American Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the author of “Reproducing Race: The Paradox of Generation Mix,” says he believes that there is too much “emotional investment” in the notion of multiracialism as a panacea for the nation’s age-old divisions. “The mixed-race identity is not a transcendence of race, it’s a new tribe,” he said. “A new Balkanization of race.”…

…The Way We Were

Americans mostly think of themselves in singular racial terms. Witness President Obama’s answer to the race question on the 2010 census: Although his mother was white and his father was black, Mr. Obama checked only one box, black, even though he could have checked both races.

Some proportion of the country’s population has been mixed-race since the first white settlers had children with Native Americans. What has changed is how mixed-race Americans are defined and counted…

Read the entire article here.

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Remembering Mildred Loving, Unsung Hero of the Civil Rights Movement

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-30 03:17Z by Steven

Remembering Mildred Loving, Unsung Hero of the Civil Rights Movement


Mark A. Huddle, Associate Professor of History
Georgia College and State University

Fighting “Anti-Miscegenation” Laws

On May 2, Mildred Loving died from complications of pneumonia at the age of 68.  The unassuming Mrs. Loving would have scoffed at the notion that she was a hero of the Civil Rights Movement.  But for millions of Americans the Loving v. Virginia (1967) case—which outlawed bans on interracial marriage—has resonated to the present as their declaration of independence

The Lovings’ story began in June 1958 when they were married in Washington, DCRichard Perry Loving and Mildred Delores Jeter of Central Point, Virginia crossed into the District to evade their state’s Racial Integrity Act, a law that defined the marriage of a white man and African American woman as a felony.  Five weeks later on July 11, the newly-married couple was rousted from their bed by the Caroline County, Virginia sheriff and two deputies and arrested for violating the 1924 law.  In a plea agreement, they pleaded guilty in return for a one-year suspended jail sentence and an agreement not to return to the state together for twenty-five years. 

The couple moved to Washington, started a family, and struggled to make ends meet.  Eventually the isolation from family and friends proved too much.  In 1963 Mildred Loving contacted the American Civil Liberties Union which agreed to take the case.  Eventually Loving v. Virginia was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on April 10, 1967.  Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the Court on June 12.  Warren put the question succinctly:  did the “statutory scheme adopted by the State of Virginia to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications” violate the “Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?”  The Court concluded that the Virginia law directly contradicted the “central meaning” of those constitutional safeguards and was therefore unconstitutional.

The Lovings were always quick to note that while they were glad their case proved so helpful to so many people their main concern was the welfare of their own family.  “We are doing it for us,” Richard Loving told an interviewer in 1966.  But the Loving decision eventually impacted millions. 

So-called “anti-miscegenation laws” were one of the more tenacious vestiges of Jim Crow.  The last state to strike anti-miscegenation statutes from its organic law was Alabama which waited until 2000 to do so.  In the decades since the ruling, there has been a marked increase in mixed race marriages and by the 1990s we were in the midst of an interracial baby-boom.  Also of particular importance to the growth of the mixed-race population was the Immigration Act of 1965 that eliminated many of the racist immigration restrictions from earlier legislation and contributed to the “browning of America.”  Census 2000, the first to allow Americans to check more than one box for racial identity, counted 7.3 million people, about 3 percent of the population, as interracial.  The most striking fact of all from the data is that 41 percent of that mixed race population was under the age of eighteen…

Read the entire article here.

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Why Obama is African American, Not Biracial

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-29 22:28Z by Steven

Why Obama is African American, Not Biracial

New America Media

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Here’s the ‘What is President-elect Barack Obama—black, biracial or multiracial?’ quiz. If he did not have one of the world’s most recognizable names and faces, he would fume at being turned away from restaurants, bypassed by taxis, racially profiled by police on street corners, refused from viewing an apartment by landlords, followed in stores by security guards, denied a loan for his business or home purchase, confined to living in a segregated neighborhood, or passed over for a corporate management position.

He would not be spared any of these routine petty harassments and annoyances—the subtle and outright forms of discrimination—because he checked the biracial designation on his census form. That’s a meaningless, feel-good, paper designation that has no validity in the hard world of American race politics.

The deepest part of America’s racial fault has always been and still remains the black and white divide. This has spawned legions of vile but durable racial stereotypes, fears and antagonisms. Black males have been the special target of negative typecasting. They’ve routinely been depicted as crime prone, derelict, sexual menaces and chronic underachievers. University researchers recently found that Obama’s win didn’t appreciably change these stereotypes.

The roughly six million or 2 percent of Americans who checked the biracial census box may take comfort in trying to be racially precise, but most also tell of their own bitter experience in feeling the sting of racial bigotry in the streets and workplace. Obama can too, and he has related his racial awakening in his best selling bare-the-soul autobiograhy “Dreams from My Father.”

Despite his occasional references to his white mother and grandmother, Obama has never seen himself as anything other than African American. That worked for and against him during the campaign. In countless polls and surveys, the overwhelming majority of whites said that they would vote for an African American for president, and that competence and qualifications, not color, were the only things that mattered. Many meant it and showed it by enthusiastically cheering him on. More than a few didn’t. Despite the real and feigned color-blindness, nearly 60 percent of whites still did not vote for Obama. Most based their opposition to him on Republican political loyalties, ties, regional and personal preferences. But a significant minority of white voters did not for him because he’s black, and they did not hide their feelings about that in exit polls in the Democratic primaries and the general election. Tagging him as multiracial or biracial did not soften their color resistance to him, let alone change their perception that he was black…

Read the entire article here.

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Being Black and White

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive on 2011-01-29 22:16Z by Steven

Being Black and White

The American Prospect
E. J. Graff, Associate Director and Senior Researcher
The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

When I was 18, I learned, quite belatedly, that my father’s brother had married a black woman. The wedding took place in 1958—the year I was born, the year after my parents married. Instantly I knew that racism had kept me from knowing my uncle (by then dead of a heart attack), my aunt, my cousins. Instantly I knew I would have to find them. But it was one thing to discover that the deepest, most volatile division in the country ran right through my family; actually crossing that divide to claim kinship was, for a long time, too daunting for someone whose only experience with “diversity” was being the sole Jewish kid among her semirural Ohio high school’s 2,300 students.

And so it wasn’t until my thirties that I finally met my aunt and cousins. To my surprise, they treated me not just as a cousin but as a living symbol of racial reconciliation. Once we’d met, told stories, and compared features—we share a long jaw and sharp chin—I started to notice how arbitrarily I’d sorted the world around me into “black” or “white.” All around were black people who looked related to me. White friends had color in their families of blood or choice: a stepfather, a spouse, a sister-in-law, a dearest friend. I started to feel that every American whose family has been here more than a few decades is from a mixed-race family, that somewhere out there—however near or far—we all have relatives of the “other” color. African Americans know this, of course, often down to the name of at least one plantation owner in the family tree. But for a white girl in a color-bound world, this was news.

As it happened, the insight that was striking me so personally—that the color line is drawn in shifting sand—would soon strike the culture. In the past few years, the headlines have been full of such things as the 2000 census’s mix-and-match option; genetic evidence that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (his dead wife’s half-sister and slave) left a widening delta of descendants; and the ascending god Tiger Woods’s refusal to reject his plural ethnicity. And since 1995, a number of mixed-race memoirs have hit our shelves, opening discussion of a new identity: biracial writers who have a black parent and a white one. These authors grapple with the sense that they don’t quite belong anywhere, that they aren’t fully claimed by either race. But their wide range of experiences reveals how deeply racial identity, like any identity, is affected not just by society but also by family, character, time, and place…

Read the entire article here.

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Greg Carter to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2011-01-29 18:14Z by Steven

Greg Carter to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Mixed Chicks Chat (The only live weekly show about being racially and culturally mixed. Also, founders of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival) Hosted by Fanshen Cox and Heidi W. Durrow
Website: TalkShoe™ (Keywords: Mixed Chicks)
Episode: #191-Greg Carter
When: Wednesday, 2011-02-02, 22:00Z (17:00 EST, 16:00 CST, 14:00 PST)

Greg Carter, Assistant Professor of History
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Greg Carter is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His book, The United States of the United Races, a survey of positive ideas about racial mixing in the United States is forthcoming from New York University Press.

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‘Land of our Mothers’: Home, Identity, and Nationality for Anglo-Indians in British India, 1919–1947

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2011-01-29 03:37Z by Steven

‘Land of our Mothers’: Home, Identity, and Nationality for Anglo-Indians in British India, 1919–1947

History Workshop Journal
Volume 54, Issue 1
pages 49-72
DOI: 10.1093/hwj/54.1.49

Alison Blunt, Professor of Geography
Queen Mary, University of London

This paper explores the symbolic and material intersections of home, identity and nationality for Anglo-Indians (previously known as ‘Eurasians’) in the period between the Montague Chelmsford Reforms and Indian Independence. Community claims for a legitimate heritage were articulated through images of Britain as fatherland and India as motherland, and were closely tied to political attempts to gain a legitimate stake in national life. The paper examines public debates about home, identity and nationality with reference to the two main Anglo-Indian leaders of the twentieth century, Henry Gidney and Frank Anthony. While a British imperial lineage was imagined through the figure of a British forefather, political debates about home, identity and nationality largely erased the figure of an Indian maternal ancestor and instead focused on Mother India and on the domestic roles of Anglo-Indian women. The political recognition of both women and the home was an attempt not only to domesticate Anglo-Indian women, but also to domesticate a new national identity that regarded India more than Britain as home. But the home life of Anglo-Indians remained more British than Indian and political attempts to foster national loyalty to India as motherland were contested on a domestic scale. The mixed descent of Anglo-Indians was thus both manifested and erased in public debates about the future and status of the community.

…This paper is about India as ‘land of our mothers’ at a time when questions of home, identity and nationality were bound together in complex and contested ways for Anglo-Indians and other minority communities in India. Through my focus on a distinct community of mixed descent, I examine the ways in which national identity was embodied in gendered and racialized ways that reflected and reproduced a dual affiliation to both Britain and India as home. Community claims for a legitimate heritage were articulated through images of Britain as fatherland and India as motherland, and such claims were closely tied to political attempts to gain a legitimate stake in national life. For this reason, I analyse public debates about home, identity and nationality, drawing on political representations by Anglo-Indian leaders and on articles and letters published in the Anglo-Indian Review. I focus on the period from the Montague Chelmsford Report of 1919, which laid the foundations for Indianization in government employment and political representation, to independence in 1947. This also allows me to contrast the policies of the two main Anglo-Indian leaders of the twentieth century. Henry Gidney led the community from 1919 until his death in 1942, when he was succeeded by Frank Anthony, who served as president of the [All-India Anglo-Indian Association] AIAIA and as a nominated member of parliament representing community interests from 1942 until his death in 1993. Rather than render spaces of home as more symbolic than actual in forging a national identity, I argue that political attempts to foster a greater national loyalty to India as motherland rather than Britain as fatherland were contested on a domestic scale. Anglo-Indian homes continued to be imagined as more British than Indian despite political attempts by Gidney and Anthony to identify the community as a nationalist minority. Rather than explore the home merely as a feminized space, I am interested in how it also came to be shaped by a masculine imperial heritage. While a British imperial lineage was imagined through the figure of a British forefather, political debates about home, identity, and nationality largely erased the figure of an Indian maternal ancestor and instead focused on Mother India and on the present and future political roles of Anglo-Indian women within and beyond the home. While ideas of home and identity were potent sites in shaping ideas of nationality, the mixed descent of Anglo-Indians was thus both manifested and erased in public debates about the future and status of the community…

Read the entire article here.

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