“Cane”, Race, and “Neither/Norism”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-05-17 22:47Z by Steven

“Cane”, Race, and “Neither/Norism”

The Southern Literary Journal
Volume 32, Number 2 (Spring, 2000)
pages 90-101

Charles Harmon

“My racial composition and my position in the world are realities which I alone may determine.”

—Jean Toomer to Horace Liveright

Of all people, Jean Toomer wrote Cane. For a long time, this fact has made critics a little uneasy, a little wistful. The elusiveness of the text itself is the source of some of this wistfulness, and this feeling is only compounded by the elusiveness of Toomer the man. Still, critics have devised serviceable methods to control the ambiguity of both text and author. The currently routine way to read Cane controls the ambiguity of the text itself by interpreting it in a manner similar to the routine way to read that once-mysterious landmark, The Waste Land. Faced with an intriguing array of textual shards, Toomer’s critics patiently triangulate behind the words of Cane until they reach what Nellie Y. McKay has called Toomer’s “song of celebration to the elements that constitute Afro-American experience” (33). In the same way that The Waste Land arranges fragments of desiccated gloom in order to adumbrate a between-the-lines intuition of vernal hope, Cane, according to many critics, arranges fragmentary representations of racial confusion in order to communicate a between-the-lines intuition of racial coherence. In the words of Houston Baker, “As the reader struggles to fit the details together” he or she takes “a journey toward liberating black American art” (80).

The other elusiveness I have mentioned—that of Toomer himself—is not disposed of so easily. As is well known, Toomer took offense at marketing Cane as a work of African American literature. Although he did not always deny the possibility of having African American ancestry, he disliked having any racial designation whatsoever (besides “American”) placed upon him. His biographers have made clear that partly in response to having race be an aspect of his literary persona, Toomer stopped writing the kinds of books that appealed to the audience that admired Cane. Instead of writing other modernist texts, after Cane Toomer mostly wrote linear (and in his life unpublished) books–books that tend to dwell with numbing clarity upon the serenity he found in various philosophical systems. Many of these writings have now been dufffully read and analyzed by scholars of Cane. Still, it remains fair to say that critics have admired the Toomer of Cane because they believe that during the relatively brief time he worked on that particular text, Toomer found a way to strike a balance between racial solidarity and literary ambiguity. No matter how difficult his writing may have been, critics believe that in his heart Toomer disciplined his speculative nature by ultimately identifying himself with African American culture. By contrast, critics have disliked, pitied, or condescended to the Toomer that came after Cane because they believe that during that period of his life, Toomer shifted the quality of ambiguity from his writing to his race. His books became (if anything) too easy to understand, while his sense of racial solidarity became harder and harder to divine.

Thus, we have been left with a “good” Toomer and a “bad” Toomer. The good Toomer briefly and tactfully uses race to contain literary ambiguity, but the bad Toomer jettisons both race and literary ambiguity in favor of such systems as Quakerism and the teachings of Gurdjieff. Whatever one may think of this view of Toomer’s career, there is little doubt that—simply by ensuring Cane’s solid canonization—it has had a beneficial effect upon the study of twentieth-century literature. With Cane’s interest and importance thus solidified, however, other critics have gone on to challenge the orthodox reading of Toomer that has resulted in Cane’s current status. These critics have argued that Toomer’s ambivalence toward racial identity is much more evident in Cane than such critics as McKay and Baker have recognized. Donald B. Gibson, for instance, has insisted that far from being a monument of black American literature, Cane is the “response of one for whom black life.., was too much to bear” (179). In a more moderate vein, George Hutchinson has also claimed that Cane ultimately distances itself from the traditions and resources of African American culture. The text does this, Hutchinson argues, less out of Toomer’s fear of blackness and more out of his desire to represent “a new kind of ethnic subject, the possibility of whose existence was disallowed by both…

Tags: , , ,

Penn mutliheritage organization experiences re-birth

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2012-05-17 03:43Z by Steven

Penn mutliheritage organization experiences re-birth

The Daily Pennsylvanian

Diana Gonimah

Mixed ethnicity students met to discuss their experiences and Check One’s future

Last night, Penn students came together over their ability to check more than one box under “Ethnicity” on their college applications.

College junior Chris Cruz and Engineering sophomore Ibrahim Ayub hosted a general body meeting to relaunch Check One, a multiracial and multicultural organization that has not met for about a decade on Penn’s campus after being founded in 1995.

Cruz, who served as chair of the United Minorities Council on its previous board, said the purpose of relaunching Check One was to meet a “pressing demand for a space to be created for the multicultural and multiracial community as a great number of Americans identify as multiracial.”

The meeting — which was dubbed “So …What are You?” — attracted a diverse group of Penn students who identified themselves as belonging to more than one ethnicity or culture…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Out writer Andrew Jolivétte on Obama and race

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-05-17 02:36Z by Steven

Out writer Andrew Jolivétte on Obama and race

Windy City Times
Chicago, Illinois

David-Elijah Nahmod

History was made a few short years ago, when Barack Obama became the first African American president in U.S. history. Though it’s been mentioned, the fact that the president is actually half white hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention.

There’s no question that American demographics are changing rapidly. The Leave It To Beaver/Father Knows Best nuclear family is disappearing, and is being replaced by families that encompass all the colors of the rainbow.

In his new book, Obama and the Biracial Factor (The Policy Press), professor Andrew J. Jolivétte of San Francisco State University offers a series of essays in which a variety of writers discuss the changing colors of the American landscape. The writers are all university academics, representing a variety of schools and ethnicities. Jolivette talked with Windy City Times about why he felt the book was needed, as well as his own status as a multicultural gay man.

Windy City Times: Can you tell us about the classes you teach at San Francisco State University?

Andrew J. Jolivette: I started teaching almost 12 years ago at the University of San Francisco. It was a people of mixed-descent class that focused on people who are multiracial. I was born and raised in San Francisco and moved to Oakland about eight years ago. For the past two years I’ve been chair of the American Indian Studies Department at San Francisco State University.

I’ve taught a lot of different classes over the years: Mixed Race Studies, People of Color and AIDS, American Indian Education, American Indian Religion and Philosophy, and Black Indians in the Americas. I suppose because of my training in sociology I am interested in many different social and behavior explanations for societal inequalities, especially for Native Americans, LGBT and communities of color…

…WCT: Why do you think there’s a need for this book?

Andrew J. Jolivette: My own background as a Louisiana Creole (French, American Indian–Opelousa and Atakpa, African and Spanish ) has always hadan impact on my identity. Growing up I wasn’t sure where I fit in exactly in terms of race. My father is a Creole from the Southwest and my mother is African American and American Indian from Alabama and Indianapolis. People always tried to guess what my background was and I’ve heard just about everything from Egyptian and Cuban to East Indian. People from mixed backgrounds are often forced to move between different identities. In the case of Mr. Obama, I argue he knows how to navigate through many different communities. He can relate to white Americans, Black Americans and many other groups because he’s lived in so many different cultures. He has found a way to relate to people that helped him get elected…

…WCT: When he was first elected, much was made of Obama being the first Black president. Do you have any insight as to why his biracial status hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention?

Andrew J. Jolivette: Most of the country still argues that if you have any African or Black ancestry you will be seen and treated as Black. This is true only to a certain extent. In the book, I argue that being half white, being biracial, also shapes who he is as a person…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy on 2012-05-17 02:22Z by Steven

Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice

Stanford University Press
April 2012
280 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780804774079
Paper ISBN: 9780804774086
E-book: ISBN: 9780804782050

Catherine Bliss, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of California, San Francisco

Winner of the 2014 Oliver Cromwell Cox Award, sponsored by the ASA Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities.

In 2000, with the success of the Human Genome Project, scientists declared the death of race in biology and medicine. But within five years, many of these same scientists had reversed course and embarked upon a new hunt for the biological meaning of race. Drawing on personal interviews and life stories, Race Decoded takes us into the world of elite genome scientists—including Francis Collins, director of the NIH; Craig Venter, the first person to create a synthetic genome; and Spencer Wells, National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, among others—to show how and why they are formulating new ways of thinking about race.

In this original exploration, Catherine Bliss reveals a paradigm shift, both at the level of science and society, from colorblindness to racial consciousness. Scientists have been fighting older understandings of race in biology while simultaneously promoting a new grand-scale program of minority inclusion. In selecting research topics or considering research design, scientists routinely draw upon personal experience of race to push the public to think about race as a biosocial entity, and even those of the most privileged racial and social backgrounds incorporate identity politics in the scientific process. Though individual scientists may view their positions differently—whether as a black civil rights activist or a white bench scientist—all stakeholders in the scientific debates are drawing on memories of racial discrimination to fashion a science-based activism to fight for social justice.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. The New Science of Race
  • 2. Making Science Racial
  • 3. The Sociogenomic Paradigm
  • 4. Making Sense of Race with Values
  • 5. Everyday Race-Positive
  • 6. Activism and Expertise
  • 7. The Enduring Trouble with Race
  • Notes
  • Index
Tags: , , , , ,

Multiracial Subject Theory: Lessons in Organizational Praxis

Posted in Campus Life, Dissertations, Media Archive, United States on 2012-05-17 01:52Z by Steven

Multiracial Subject Theory: Lessons in Organizational Praxis

University of Washington
180 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3472097
ISBN: 9781124842813

Claire Elizabeth Fraczek

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy University of Washington

This dissertation investigates racial complexities in higher education through three distinct papers in which I centralize critical pedagogy, leadership development, and organizational change through the lens of multiracial subject theory. Chapter one considers the merits, strategies and limitations of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) as pedagogical tools in higher education contexts. I demonstrate the ways in which monoracial foundations are imbedded in these two approaches and argue that, through a mixed-race analytic, theorists working in the field of CRT and CWS will be better able to analyze the dynamic interplay of race and racial categorizations in ways that benefit a broad spectrum of diverse students, including a growing multiracial student population.

Building on this platform, chapter two highlights research data from a two-year qualitative case study in which one undergraduate group of ten multiracial students initiated, designed and implemented a college course. Here, I argue that these students developed a critical mixed race praxis through intentional, shared leadership, interdisciplinary content, and regular attention to a larger political agenda. Throughout the paper, I consider two central themes: (1) implications of a shared leadership model on college student development, and (2) practical lessons far organizational interventions in higher education pedagogy.

The third paper shifts from student development to that of higher education administrators who seek to build organizational capacity for justice-conscious leadership. Building on the theoretical and empirical data in the previous papers, chapter three articulates a set of criteria by which to define and measure critical mixed race praxes. Through a series of vignettes located in higher education contexts, I highlight timely moments and opportunities for administrators to leverage their multiple subject positions in ways that inform and contribute to critical leadership practices. My analysis cautions against leadership and policy that rely on fixed identity politics to instead emphasize structural and organizational models as methodological tools for praxis.


  • List of Figures
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: (Re)thinking Race: Positioning Multiracial Representations within Critical Pedagogy
  • Chapter Two: Claiming Mixed Classroom Space: Praxis Lessons from an Undergraduate Student Collective
  • Chapter Three: Leadership in Higher Education: Critical Mixed Praxis Lessons
  • Conclusion: From Ideology to Methodology: Addressing Race in Higher Education
  • References
  • Appendix A: Class Syllabus
  • Appendix B: Focus Group Interview Protocol


  1. Critical Race Pedagogies
  2. Critical Mixed Praxis

Purchase the dissertation here.

Tags: , , ,