Blood and stories: how genomics is rewriting race, medicine and human history

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2012-05-12 18:02Z by Steven

Blood and stories: how genomics is rewriting race, medicine and human history

Patterns of Prejudice
Volume 40, Numbers 4/5 (2006), Special Issue: Race and Contemporary Medicine
pages 303-333
DOI: 10.1080/00313220601020064

Priscilla Wald, Professor of English and Women’s Studies
Duke University

In 2003 Howard University announced its intention to create a databank of the DNA of African Americans, most of whom were patients in their medical centre. Proponents of the decision invoked the routine exclusion of African Americans from research that would give them access to the most up-to-date medical technologies and treatments. They argued that this databank would rectify such exclusions. Opponents argued that such a move tacitly affirmed the biological (genetic) basis of race that had long fuelled racism as well as that the potential costs were not worth the uncertain benefits. Howard University’s controversial decision emerges from research in genomic medicine that has added new urgency to the question of the relationship between science and racism. This relationship is the topic of Wald’s essay. Scientific disagreements over the relative usefulness of ‘race’ as a classification in genomic medical research have been obscured by charges of racism and political correctness. The question takes us to the assumptions of population genomics that inform the medical research, and Wald turns to the Human Genome Diversity Project, the new Genographics Project and the 2003 film Journey of Man to consider how racism typically inheres not in the intentions of researchers, but in the language, images and stories through which scientists, journalists and the public inevitably interpret information. Wald demonstrates the importance of understanding those stories as inseparable from scientific and medical research. Her central argument is that if we understand the power of the stories we can better understand the debates surrounding race and genomic medicine, which, in turn, can help us make better ethical and policy decisions and be useful in the practices of science and medicine.

To understand how genomic research can reproduce racism, it is necessary to understand how racism is articulated through that research as it is practised in the context of particular social formations. The articulation is produced through stories of race and genomic research, which take many forms as they make their way from the scientific community to the general public. Stories about the research reach public consciousness through such controversial decisions as the NHGC databank as well as through the discoveries and innovations emerging from the labs of pharmaceutical companies, universities and federal institutions. Accounts of genomic research offer exciting promises, ranging from new explanations (and treatments) for some of the most feared medical problems, from cancer to avian flu, to new ways of understanding (and managing) human behaviour. They also capture the public imagination with claims of new discoveries that offer insight into the mysteries of human origins and human history, and the genealogies of individuals as well as groups. The claims and promises fuse in the stories of genomic research broadcast in the mainstream media, and they in turn influence policy and funding decisions and help to shape future research. These stories are fundamental in the production of scientific and medical knowledge and, therefore, as I argue in what follows, attention to them needs to be incorporated into scientific and medical research.

…Genomic information is notoriously difficult to interpret even by researchers in the field. The frequency of alleles that mark genetic drift—the the rate of genetic changes resulting from mutations, or divergent alleles, in relatively inbred populations—tells where and when there was a divergence within a group. Those alleles are used to mark ancestry. But, as Michael J. Bamshad and Steve E. Olson note, ‘how groups are divided depends on which genes are examined; simplistically put, you might fit into one group based on your skin-color genes but another based on a different characteristic’.  The DNA that yields information about one’s ancestry—typically mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA—in fact tells only part of the story of genetic ancestry. The complexity of nuclear DNA does not yield sufficiently clear information to complete it. Moreover, as Jay Kaufman has pointed out, Risch et al. ’s study relies on the dismissal of ‘intermediate groups’, such as ‘Hispanic Americans’, whom Risch et al. acknowledge could ‘aggregate genetically with Caucasians, Native Americans, African Americans or form their own cluster’ and are therefore ‘not easily classified’, but the size of those groups attenuates their claims. They are too large to be dismissed as an exception. Intermixture is increasingly the rule…

…Pointing an accusatory finger at ‘political correctness’ not only deflects the scientific dispute, but also ignores the medical importance of the social consequences of racism, measured in health outcomes. Drawing a stark contrast between medical science and social concerns, a distinction that Risch et al. ’s article itself troubles, that accusation renders social concerns suspect except as they provide epidemiologically useful information. Neither Wade nor Risch et al . address what constitutes epidemiologically useful information. Risch et al. dismiss potential abuses of genomic information (such as those that fuel racism) as unscientific, arguing

that identifying genetic differences between races and ethnic groups, be they for random genetic markers, genes that lead to disease susceptibility or variation in drug response, is scientifically appropriate. What is not scientific is a value system attached to any such findings.

But this assertion presumes that science and medicine can be divorced from their social contexts and that information circulates in value-neutral terms. History does not support that presumption, and calling racism ‘not scientific’ does not address the value system or alleviate the problems—including health outcomes—associated with it…

…Taking racism into account does not mean refusing to collect and classify data in medical research according to race and ethnicity. On the contrary, those classifications provide important epidemiological information, as Risch et al. maintain, about the impact of social and environmental factors—including socio-economic inequities and cultural biases—on the health of individuals and groups. As Troy Duster argues, the way to ‘recognize, engage, and clarify the complexity of the interaction between any taxonomies of race and biological, neurophysiological, society, and health outcomes’ is to consider ‘how science studies deploy the concept of race’. The story of how biotechnology is revolutionizing medicine has put genomic research very much into public consciousness and has made genetic explanations of health disparities among individuals and especially groups the ‘default position’. Distinguishing between genomic and social and environmental factors in disease susceptibility and drug response is notoriously difficult, especially since, as Keita et al. note, ‘some environmental influences can be so subtle and occur so early in life as to be missed . . . ’. Yet, that distinction determines how researchers and practitioners understand and address the problem of health disparities. ‘Race’ and ‘ethnicity’ are very different as surrogates for genomics and for social and environmental factors in the assessment of health outcomes, which is why the larger stories in which the research is embedded are scientifically and medically as well as socially relevant…

Read the entire article here.

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Finding a Match, and a Mission: Helping Blacks Survive Cancer

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, New Media, United States on 2012-05-12 15:53Z by Steven

Finding a Match, and a Mission: Helping Blacks Survive Cancer

The New York Times
2012-05-11

Donald G. McNeil, Jr.

A month after his 2009 graduation from Yale Law School, Seun Adebiyi learned he had not one but two lethal blood cancers and began an odyssey to find a bone-marrow donor. Mr. Adebiyi, 28, who came to this country from Nigeria as a child, made appeals through Yale, on radio stations, in a YouTube video and even on a trip to Nigeria to ask law students to volunteer.

But finally, his doctor called, saying that a Nigerian woman in this country had donated her baby’s umbilical cord blood to a “cord-blood bank” and that the stem cells in it were a close enough match. After his own marrow — the source of his cancers — was wiped out, those cells were infused into him at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He has been in remission since.

Now he is trying to repay that debt, with an effort that experts say may save the lives of both Nigerians and black Americans. In February, he helped start Nigeria’s national bone-marrow registry, the first in Africa outside South Africa. He is now raising money to start a cord-blood bank there…

…But for African-Americans like Mr. Adebiyi, finding matches is particularly difficult. Blacks are less likely to register as donors; while blacks are 12.6 percent of the population, only 8 percent of registered donors are black.

“It’s lack of education about it, and mistrust of the medical system after scandals like Tuskegee,” said Shauna Melius, co-founder of Preserve Our Legacy, citing the Tuskegee, Ala., experiment in which government doctors recruited black farmers for research and let those with syphilis go untreated for decades. Her organization recruits donors at Harlem Hospital and through drives featuring black celebrities.

“Plus,” she added, “people are skeptical because you’re collecting DNA.”

Complicating the problem, blacks are more genetically diverse than whites. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens existed in Africa for 200,000 years before migrating north to Europe a little over 40,000 years ago, so all Europeans descend from the shallower end of the gene pool…

…It will particularly help those with more African genes. Most black Americans have some white ancestors and, on average, 35 percent European genes, but individuals vary widely…

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The fallacy of racial pharmacogenomics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2012-05-12 04:36Z by Steven

The fallacy of racial pharmacogenomics

Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
Volume 44, Number 4 (April 2011)
pages 268-275
DOI: 10.1590/S0100-879X2011007500031

S. D. J. Pena
Departamento de BioquĂ­mica e Imunologia, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil
GENE – NĂșcleo de GenĂ©tica MĂ©dica, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil

Personalized pharmacogenomics aims to use individual genotypes to direct medical treatment. Unfortunately, the loci relevant for the pharmacokinetics and especially the pharmacodynamics of most drugs are still unknown. Moreover, we still do not understand the role that individual genotypes play in modulating the pathogenesis, the clinical course and the susceptibility to drugs of human diseases which, although appearing homogeneous on the surface, may vary from patient to patient. To try to deal with this situation, it has been proposed to use interpopulational variability as a reference for drug development and prescription, leading to the development of “race-targeted drugs”. Given the present limitations of genomic knowledge and of the tools needed to fully implement it today, some investigators have proposed to use racial criteria as a palliative measure until personalized pharmacogenomics is fully developed. This was the rationale for the FDA approval of BiDil for treatment of heart failure in African Americans. I will evaluate the efficacy and safety of racial pharmacogenomics here and conclude that it fails on both counts. Next I shall review the perspectives and the predicted rate of development of clinical genomic studies. The conclusion is that “next-generation” genomic sequencing is advancing at a tremendous rate and that true personalized pharmacogenomics, based on individual genotyping, should soon become a clinical reality.

Introduction

The American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson defined the “perimeter of ignorance” as the boundary where scientists face a choice: continue the quest for knowledge or invoke a deity or other supernatural forces. He used as an example no less than Isaac Newton himself, whose law of gravity enabled calculation of the force of attraction between any two objects. When computing the orbits of the planets around the sun, Newton feared that the mutual attraction between them would render the solar system unstable. He then concluded that God occasionally stepped in to make things right. A century later, the French astronomer Pierre-Simon de Laplace created a new mathematical tool called perturbation theory and used it to demonstrate that the solar system is in fact stable over periods of time much longer than Newton could predict. Laplacian science, therefore, no longer needed to postulate the interference of supernatural forces to explain astronomical facts.

Newton’s appeal to God, however unnecessary, may at first sight appear as a humble attitude of a great man. However, Tyson demonstrates that, on the contrary, it represented presumptuousness on his part: if his mathematics was not good enough to explain the phenomenon, then the problem was too complicated for any other human mind to figure out, then or anytime in the future. By “embracing ignorance” Newton’s attitude negatively infused a temporary stage of incomplete knowledge with a false permanency, running counter to the philosophy of open-mindedness and discovery that characterizes Science.

Pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics are likewise in a dilemma right at the edge of the perimeter of ignorance…

…To try to deal with this situation it has been proposed to use interpopulational variability as a reference for drug development and prescription, leading to the development of “race-targeted drugs”, as exemplified by the case of BiDil for treatment of heart failure in African Americans. The rationale for such strategy is that, since we still lack the pharmacogenomic knowledge necessary to implement true personalized treatment, we make do by using the race or the ethnic-geographic affiliation of a given patient as the replacement of the germane individual genotyping at critical loci.

Therein lies the fallacy of racial pharmacogenomics – being predicated on the idea that individual genotyping will be impossible to achieve in the near future, it “embraces ignorance”. Moreover, it often does so under false premises. For instance, in the FDA news release entitled “FDA Approves BiDil Heart Failure Drug for Black Patients” it is stated that this represents “a step toward the promise of personalized medicine”. But racial medicine is group medicine – most definitely it is not personalized medicine…

…I propose that, rather than thinking about populations, ethnicities or races, we should focus on the unique genome of a particular individual, which is structured as a mosaic of polymorphic haplotypes with diverse genealogical histories. This shifts the emphasis from populations to persons. We should strive to see each individual as having a singular genome and a unique life history, rather than try to impose on him/her characteristics of a group or population. Under this model, ideas such as that of human races or “race-targeted drugs” become meaningless and vanish like smoke.

The safety of racial pharmacogenomics

The adoption of racial pharmacogenomics by the FDA has serious implications that extend much beyond the restricted limits of the medical arena. Thus, it has to be evaluated not only scientifically, but also within a historical, sociological and philosophical context.

In the past, the belief that human races had substantial and clearly delimited biological differences contributed to justify discrimination and was used to oppress and foment injustices, even within the medical context. The concept of race is still loaded with ideology and carries within it relationships of power and domination. It is similar to a banana peel: empty, slippery and dangerous.

Thus, our final conclusion is that racial pharmaco-genomics fails on grounds of insufficient benefit/cost ratio: it has much to recommend against it and very little scientific justification in its favor.

To use racial pharmacogenomics as a palliative measure is tantamount to “embracing ignorance”. It erroneously confers persistence and credence to the idea that human races do exist. As pointed out by the sociologist Paul Gilroy, such persistence is toxic, contaminating and weakens all society…

Read the entire article here.

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Nella Larsen’s Passing: More than Skin Deep

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-05-12 04:13Z by Steven

Nella Larsen’s Passing: More than Skin Deep

McNair Scholars Research Journal
Volume 15
pages 71-83
June 2011

Sarah Hicks
California State University, Long Beach

Nella Larsen’s novella Passing focuses on Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry-Bellew, two female Mulatto characters who pass into white communities; however, two white male minor characters, Hugh Wentworth and John “Jack” Bellew reveal an irregular definition of passing. Wentworth and Bellew challenge our assumptions of where the racist resides within the United States. Because of this, Larsen asks the reader to broaden the definition of passing. As Larsen applies passing on a deeper lever, she manipulates these characters to live in regional boundaries that are counterintuitive to our ideas of the Northern liberal and the Southern racist. What we find, however, is the passing of characters that are true to their borders. In this way, Larsen suggests passing is more than skin deep.

Read the entire article here.

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Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-05-12 03:06Z by Steven

Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos

Palgrave Macmillan
April 2005
352 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4039-6567-7, ISBN10: 1-4039-6567-6
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4039-6568-4, ISBN10: 1-4039-6568-4

Anani Dzidzienyo, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Portuguese & Brazilian Studies
Brown University

Suzanne Oboler, Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Studies
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

In this collection, leading scholars focus on the contemporary meanings and diverse experiences of blackness in specific countries of the hemisphere, including the United States. The anthology introduces new perspectives on comparative forms of racialization in the Americas and presents its implications both for Latin American societies, and for Latinos’ relations with African Americans in the U.S. Contributors address issues such as: Who are the Afro-Latin Americans? What historical contributions do they bring to their respective national polities? What happens to their national and socio-racial identities as a result of migration to the United States? What is the impact of the growing presence of Afro-Latin Americans within U.S. Latino populations, particularly with respect to the continuing dynamics of racialization in the United States today? And, more generally, what are the prospects and obstacles for rethinking alliances and coalition-building between and among racial(ized) minorities and other groups in contemporary U.S. society?

Table of Contents

  • Part I: Comparative Racialization in the Americas
    • Flows and Counterflows: Latinas/os, Blackness, and Racialization in Hemispheric Perspective—Suzanne Oboler and Anani Dzidzienyo
  • Part II: The Politics of Racialization in Latin America
    • A Region in Denial: Racial Discrimination and Racism in Latin America—Ariel E. Dulitzky
    • Afro-Ecuadorian Responses to Racism: Between Citizenship and Corporatism—Carlos de la Torre
    • The Foreignness of Racism: Pride and Prejudice Among Peru’s Limeños in the 1990s—Suzanne Oboler
    • Bad Boys and Peaceful Garifuna: Transnational Encounters Between Racial Stereotypes of Honduras and the United States (and Their Implications for the Study of Race in the Americas)—Mark Anderson
    • Afro-Mexico: Blacks, IndĂ­genas, Politics, and the Greater Diaspora—Bobby Vaughn
    • The Changing World of Brazilian Race Relations?—Anani Dzidzienyo
  • Part III: The Politics of Racialization in the United States
    • Framing the Discussion of African American–Latino Relations: A Review and Analysis—John J. Betancur
    • Neither White nor Black: The Representation of Racial Identity Among Puerto Ricans on the Island and in the U.S. Mainland—Jorge Duany
    • Scripting Race, Finding Place: African Americans, Afro-Cubans, and the Diasporic Imaginary in the United States—Nancy Raquel Mirabal
    • Identity, Power, and Socioracial Hierarchies Among Haitian Immigrants in Florida—Louis Herns Marcelin
    • Interminority Relations in Legislative Settings: The Case of African Americans and Latinos—JosĂ© E. Cruz
    • African American and Latina/o Cooperation in Challenging Racial Profiling—Kevin R. Johnson
    • Racial Politics in Multiethnic America: Black and Latina/o Identities and Coalitions—Mark Sawyer
    • Racism in the Americas and the Latino Scholar—Silvio Torres-Saillant
    • Witnessing History: An Octogenarian Reflects on Fifty Years of African American–Latino Relations—Nelson Peery
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Triangular Mirrors and Moving Colonialisms

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2012-05-12 02:26Z by Steven

Triangular Mirrors and Moving Colonialisms

EtnogrĂĄfica
Volume 6, Number 1 (2002)
pages 127-140

Anani Dzidzienyo, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Portuguese & Brazilian Studies
Brown University

Though there does not exist an undifferentiated colonialism category because of specificities relating to historical time conjunctions, the interfacing of such conjunctions with metropolitan projects, and the modalities of contesting colonial hegemonies and transformations in the structural/institutional relations between (ex)colonial and (ex)colonised, there is, however, the exigency for an ongoing contemplation and analysis of the reflections and refractions in the mirrors of empire and colonialism. By focussing on contradictions that characterize present-day relations between African countries and Brazil, there is the possibility for unraveling inter/intra colonial/ racial contradictions and how they impact on structures of power. Brazil, because of the widely recognized and increasingly proclaimed “africaness” becomes a mirror that simultaneously reflects and refracts multiple images of colonialism, race and empire.

Why is Brazil in this discussion, especially in view of the fact that my concerns pertain to colonialism and decolonization in Africa in the post-World War II period? Is there an implicit suggestion that there is a colonial tinge about Brazil’s African relations? Could it actually be the case that specific Brazilian articulations have veered in the direction of “colonialist” practices/perceptions? What, after all, constitutes colonialism?

For the purposes of this discussion I do not propose to offer (an)other definition for colonialism, nor do I propose to use “postcolonialism” as an analytical or descriptive concept save to note, following McClintock, that the term postcolonial suggests or imposes a certain linearity, a centering of colonialism (Euro) as the actual starting point of the life and development of societies and political economies of those areas that became entangled with or ensnared into European expansion overseas, and the creation of “colonial” models of life and governance in these sites. Postcoloniality suggests a terminal point in a process whereas, in fact, the consequences of colonialism spawned in conjunction with or opposition to specific local patterns of behavior do not simply melt away. Postcolonial sounds less confrontational than neo-colonial and appears to privilege cultural and literary constructions, highlighting formalistic processes of decolonization (flag, national anthem, heads of station). Further, it does not interrogate the continuity of the political culture and political economy constructed and left as a legacy by colonialism (see McClintock 1995).

Focussing on Brazilian-African relations offers the distinct advantage of (re)visiting Brazil’s own efforts at carving out a niche for the country, drawing upon specific historical, cultural, economic and political assests presented as a demonstration of the possibilities of South-South relations rendered even more manifest because of Brazil’s bona fides as an ex-colony – one inextricably linked to “Africa” and African polities seeking new modalities of change and development in the “post-independence” or decolonized new age…

…It is at this point that local, national and international images and perspectives jostle one another for attention in our (re)considerations of empire and end of empire. These discussions then cannot be demarcated by any specific ending of the empire because of the co-existence of past mirrors. Not that all of Africa is directly engaged with Brazil to the same extent or with equal intensity. In the following pages, an effort is made to analyze the multiple dimensions of Brazil-Africa relations without necessarily privileging the Portuguese connection but without loosing sight of its fundamentality for both Brazil and Africa. The role of race, specifically how race manifests itself in international relations – with specific reference to the representations of African-American concerns – provides a mirror for Brazil-Africa relations. Hence the attention paid to USA/Afro USA in this essay…

Read the entire article here.

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Passing for what? Aspects of Identity in Nella Larsen’s Novels

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-05-12 00:34Z by Steven

Passing for what? Aspects of Identity in Nella Larsen’s Novels

Black American Literature Forum
Volume 20, Number 1/2 (Spring-Summer, 1986)
pages 97-111

Cheryl A. Wall, Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English
Rutgers University

True, she was attractive, unusual, in an exotic, almost savage way, but she wasn’t one of them.
—Quicksand (124)

“… I was determined … to be a person and not a charity or a problem, or even a daughter of the indiscreet Ham. Then, too, I wanted things. I knew I wasn’t bad-looking and that I could ‘pass.'”
—Passing (56)

At the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Nella Larsen published two novels, Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929). They were widely and favorably reviewed. Applauded by the critics, Larsen was heralded as a rising star in the black artistic firmament. In 1930 she became the first Afro-American woman to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing. Her star then faded as quickly as it had risen, and by 1934 Nella Larsen had disappeared from Harlem and from literature. The novels she left behind prove that at least some of her promise was realized. Among the best written of the time, her books comment incisively on issues of marginality and cultural dualism that engaged Larsen’s contemporaries, such as Jean Toomer and Claude McKay, but the bourgeois ethos of her novels has unfortunately obscured the similarities. However, Larsen’s most striking insights are into psychic dilemmas confronting certain black women. To dramatize these, Larsen draws characters who are, by virtue of their appearance, education, and social class, atypical in the extreme. Swiftly viewed, they resemble the tragic mulattoes of literary convention. On closer examination, they become the means through which the author demonstrates the psychological costs of racism and sexism.

For Larsen, the tragic mulatto was the only formulation historically available to portray educated middle-class black women in fiction. But her protagonists subvert the convention consistently. They…

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Obama election stokes debate over what is biracial

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-05-12 00:09Z by Steven

Obama election stokes debate over what is biracial

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
2009-02-03

L. A. Johnson


Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette

Heather Curry believes President Barack Obama is denying his white heritage by identifying himself as African-American.

“It’s great that he’s biracial,” says Ms. Curry, 19, a Point Park University advertising major who identifies herself as biracial. “I wish he would accept it a little bit more.”

The election of Mr. Obama—the son of a white woman from Kansas and a man from Kenya—has jump-started a national dialogue on race and racial identity as America’s view of multiracial people changes.

Mr. Obama always has acknowledged his biracial background but identifies himself as African-American. With Mr. Obama, people see who and what they want to see, says Joy M. Zarembka, the Washington, D.C.-based author of “The Pigment of Your Imagination: Mixed Race in a Global Society.” “And most everyone can relate to him — whether [they’re] white, black, rich, poor, foreign, American, etc.”…

…Ms. Curry thinks the media have helped define him as only black and fears that history will forget that America’s “first black president” actually is a biracial man.

“I feel like there are not enough [biracial] role models out there,” says Ms. Curry, whose father was white and mother is black. “We need to say we’re proud of our heritage.”

Her roommate, Erica Stewart, has a different view. Ms. Stewart has a white mother and a black father. Because her mother raised her, she identifies more with white culture than black culture, but she embraces aspects of both and often is mistaken for Hispanic.

“If [Obama] feels more African-American, I don’t have issues with that,” said Ms. Stewart, 19, an art major at the Community College of Allegheny County. “If I had grown up with [my father] instead of my mom, I would have identified more as an African American.”

Friends since middle school in Erie, the two young women recall how they struggled to figure out their own racial identity, routinely seeming too black to some whites and too white to some blacks…

…Ms. Curry thinks Mr. Obama identifying as African-American could be confusing to mixed-race children, making them feel they have to choose or making them think, “If Obama says he’s black, does this mean I’m black?” She thinks biracial people shouldn’t choose one race over the other because they are both.

“I’m biracial,” she says. “I will fight somebody who calls me black.”

Mr. Obama has a special resonance with African-American people, people of African descent, people of color in general and multiracial people.

“Because he identifies as African-American rather than multiracial … there’s a certain tension there,” says G. Reginald Daniel, a University of California, Santa Barbara, sociology professor and author of “More Than Black?: Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order.”

Elliott Lewis, a mixed-race man, journalist and author of “Fade: My Journeys in Multiracial America,” finds the ongoing debate about whether Mr. Obama is black or biracial frustrating…

Read the entire article here.

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