Through a Glass Darkly: The Persistence of Race in Education Research & Scholarship

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Teaching Resources on 2012-05-03 19:53Z by Steven

Through a Glass Darkly: The Persistence of Race in Education Research & Scholarship

Educational Researcher
Volume 41, Number 4 (May 2012)
Pages 115-120
DOI: 10.3102/0013189X12440743

Gloria Ladson-Billings
, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Although education researchers understand that race is a problematic concept of spurious value, the concept persists in our research and scholarship. Each of the social sciences that contribute to the field of education has a history of racialized understandings that make their way to both our research and practice. Until we begin to carefully examine the way race and racialized thinking influence our work, we will continue to perpetuate destructive thinking about the capabilities of learners based on race.

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A Classic Study of the History of Caribbean Women

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Women on 2012-05-03 03:26Z by Steven

A Classic Study of the History of Caribbean Women

H-Caribbean Reviews, H-Net Reviews
December 2008

Barbara Bush

Lucille Mathurin Mair. A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica, 1655-1844. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2006. 496 pp. $60.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-976-640-166-5; (paper), ISBN 978-976-640-178-8.

I first encountered Lucille Mathurin Mair’s work during the 1970s when I read her seminal article, “The Arrivals of Black Women,” published in Jamaica Journal in 1975. Her work, which influenced me and a number of other pioneering historians in the field, was seminal in developing research in gender and slavery. Mair’s research, however, went beyond Jamaican slave women of African origin; it also embraced white and mulatto, or “brown,” women, slave and free. Her doctoral thesis, supervised by Elsa Goveia, the first woman professor of history at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica, was awarded in 1974. Mair (née Waldrond) went on to become a well-known Jamaican historian, author, teacher, activist, and diplomat, but her dissertation remained unpublished. Verene A. Shepherd and Hilary McD. Beckles, both professors of history at the University of West Indies who have made a significant contribution to gendered perspectives on Caribbean history, are thus to be commended for transforming this monumental study into a published monograph.

The book is divided into three main sections that map Mair’s original structure. Part 1 addresses the origins of Jamaican society and examines female arrivals from 1655 to 1770. Part 2 focuses on creole slave society, while the final part, “Postscript, 1834-1844,” explores the beginnings of a free society. Each section weaves together the lives of white, black, and mulatto women, and explores their relationships to each other as well as to white, black, and mulatto men. Shepherd and Beckles have skilfully and sensitively edited the original text, making the minimum of changes. Their introduction effectively contextualizes Mair’s study in relation to developments in the field of women’s, gender, and feminist history since the 1970s, and its impact on the postcolonial historiography of slave and post-slave societies…

…One of Mair’s most interesting contentions is that the “original creole matriarch may not have been black but brown” (p. 292). Free brown women, she argues, tended to live in families dominated by women and looked down on black women and brown men, whom they regarded as “helpless.” These matriarchies may reflect the particular location of mulatto women in slave societies. Brown women were the cultural conduits between black and white worlds, as the mistresses of white men and as “grog house” keepers. But, observes Mair, their position in Jamaican society was ambivalent. As the object of white male desire, they could prosper but they could never match the ideal of white womanhood and achieve respectability. Religion was the other end of the spectrum of approved means of brown upward mobility, but, argues Mair, before the abolition of slavery in 1838, there does not seem to have been the same development of philanthropy and sense of civic duty as was found among the Barbadian urban free colored population. With emancipation, however, there was a decline in concubinage, a reflection of the pervasive emphasis on “respectability” in post-slavery society that separated the “civilized” and aspiring mulattos and blacks from their “primitive” African past…

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Cultural Inversion and the One-Drop Rule: An Essay on Biology, Racial Classification, and the Rhetoric of Racial Transcendence

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-05-03 02:58Z by Steven

Cultural Inversion and the One-Drop Rule: An Essay on Biology, Racial Classification, and the Rhetoric of Racial Transcendence

Albany Law Review
Volume 72, Issue 4 (2009)
Pages 909-928

Deborah W. Post, Professor Emeritus of Law
Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg School of Law
Central Islip, New York

The great paradox in contemporary race politics is exemplified in the narrative constructed by and about President Barack Obama. This narrative is all about race even as it makes various claims about the diminished significance of race: the prospect of racial healing, the ability of a new generation of Americans to transcend race or to choose their own identity, and the emergence of a postracial society. While I do not subscribe to the post-racial theories that have been floated in the press and other media, I do believe that something of great cultural significance occurred which made the candidacy and the election of Barack Obama possible. This essay is an attempt on my part to consider what that change might have been by examining the relationship between science and social change, language and cultural categories, and the role law has played, if any, in dismantling the structures of racism.

What I have to say has very little to do with biology, except to the extent that racial classification is a cultural practice that sometimes deploys biological arguments strategically. Early in the Twentieth century sociologists and anthropologists noted that in the United States, race was more a matter of caste than class and that, unlike other caste systems, it is not cultural, but “biological.” In a racial caste, one sociologist argued, “the criterion is primarily physiognomic, usually chromatic, with socio-economic differences implied.”  Another noted that “American caste is pinned not to cultural but to biological features—to color, features, hair form, and the like.” Biology was used in this early sociological literature on race in a way that made it synonymous with physical appearance or physical characteristics. In politics and legal discourse at the time, racial purity was about “blood” and rules of descent…

…In this article, my thesis is simple. If racial caste has been upended by changes in legal rules that created a hierarchical racial structure, its demise also has been hastened by the use of symbols, a strategy of cultural inversion with respect to the meaning of race.  The operative terms of a centuries-old debate have been inverted. Instead of policing racial purity with arguments about blood and biology or the modern version of them, DNA and genes, these instruments of exclusion, the tools of white supremacists and segregationists, have been used effectively, most recently by Barack Obama, to demonstrate the physical connection between groups that are still treated discursively, politically and socially, as racially distinct…

…The movement to escape the one-drop rule, the rule that examines blood lines as far back as five generations or more, if that is what the multiracial movement is all about, is not, as far as I know, a movement that began in the black community. A major proponent is a white woman, Susan Graham, founder of “Project RACE,” which is the acronym for Reclassify All Children Equally.  What Susan Graham demands is that the children of parents who come from different races be acknowledged as the product of both groups. In other words, this white mother of a child or children whose father is a black man demands that the public, the discourse, the political  instrumentalities, the private institutions, acknowledge the status of her child as white as well as black…

…The demand for multiracial identity for the children of interracial marriage, however, may be explained in terms of a desire for status as long as we live in a society in which there is still a clear racial hierarchy. The demand that multiracial children be recognized as partly white did not come from blacks.  Nor is it surprising that Susan Graham, a major advocate for the multiracial category on the United States Census found an ally in Newt Gingrich, who opined that such a category might “‘be an important step toward transcending racial division.’” The enthusiasm for such alternative classifications leads skeptics to believe that this system of reclassification and the rhetoric of transcendence will make it easy to ignore the reality and the structure of racism.

It may be that the promotion of a multiracial identity provides some white parents with the assurance that they have not been rejected by their own children. Their children are part of them and, therefore, partly white. People who cross racial lines to marry do not leave behind all of their attitudes towards race; their internalized assumptions about racial characteristics and racial hierarchy can be a source of misunderstanding, a vulnerability that at the very worst can injure or divide family members…

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