Post-Magical Thinking America

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-30 18:12Z by Steven

Post-Magical Thinking America

The Offing: A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel

Matthew Salesses

This semester, a strange thing happened. A student came to my office hours to complain about the difficulties of understanding her own oppression.

I teach a course called “Asians in the Media” at the University of Houston, where I am a Ph.D. candidate in Literature and Creative Writing. The student is Asian American and has taken other courses in Asian American Studies. Her complaint was how hard it is on her to know that she is oppressed systematically by her country. She had it easier, she told me, before she knew that she was being marginalized. She expressed a wish to go back to not knowing. What could she do? She has a white boyfriend whom she wishes to marry. Why shouldn’t she be able to become a doctor or lawyer and live out a sort of ignorance-is-bliss?

I found myself very much identifying with her desire, and empathizing with her fear of the world she now knows she lives in. Sometimes knowledge is a very difficult thing to deal with. As a teacher, I admitted to her, that difficulty is something we want — we want to complicate knowledge. And yet. I could understand the very real truth that perhaps her life would be happier if she didn’t know that her country values her happiness less than certain other people’s happiness.

I have been thinking about our conversation ever since. I have been thinking about how close the student seemed to a breakdown. I have been thinking about whether it indeed screws up her life to know about white supremacy. I have been thinking about how unhelpful it is to tell students that in a decade or so, they will appreciate having learned what they learned. I have been thinking about how unhelpful it is to tell students that they will live more fulfilled lives if they understand the system under which those lives are led. I don’t know if that is even true…

Read the entire article here.

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Misty Copeland Is Promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-30 17:16Z by Steven

Misty Copeland Is Promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater

The New York Times

Michael Cooper

Misty Copeland, whose openness about race in ballet helped to make her one of the most famous ballerinas in the United States, was promoted on Tuesday by American Ballet Theater, becoming the first African-American female principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history.

Her promotion — after more than 14 years with the company, nearly eight as a soloist — came as Ms. Copeland’s fame spread far beyond traditional dance circles.

She made the cover of Time magazine this year, was profiled by “60 Minutes” and presented a Tony Award on this year’s telecast. She has written a memoir and a children’s book, and has more than a half-million followers on Instagram. An online ad she made for Under Armour has been viewed more than 8 million times, and she is the subject of a documentary screened this year at the Tribeca Film Festival…

…That race could still be such an issue in 2015 — and African-American dancers still so rarely seen at elite ballet companies — has been depressing to many dancegoers, and has led to impassioned discussions in the dance world and beyond about race, stereotypes and image.

More than a half-century has passed since the pioneering black dancer Arthur Mitchell broke through the color barrier and became a principal dancer at New York City Ballet in 1962, and a generation has elapsed since Lauren Anderson became the first African-American principal at Houston Ballet, in 1990. But City Ballet has had only two black principal dancers in its history, both men: Mr. Mitchell and Albert Evans, who died last week. And Ballet Theater officials said that the company’s only African-American principal dancer before now was Desmond Richardson, who joined as a principal in 1997…

Read the entire article here.

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America’s ‘Postracial’ Fantasy

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-06-30 16:51Z by Steven

America’s ‘Postracial’ Fantasy

The New York Times Magazine

Anna Holmes

Illustration by Javier Jaén

For millions of mixed-race people, identity fits more than one box, but we still see one another in black and white.

On Father’s Day, my dad and I had brunch with some close friends of mine. The conversation soon turned to their two sons: their likes, their dislikes, their habit of disrupting classmates during nap time at nursery school. At one point, as I ran my hand through one of the boys’ silky brown hair, I asked whether they consider their kids biracial. (The father is white; the mother is South Asian.) Before they could respond, the children’s paternal grandmother, in town for a visit, replied as if the answer were the most obvious thing in the world: “They’re white.”

I was taken aback, but I also realized she had a point: The two boys, who have big brown eyes and just a blush of olive in their skin, are already — and will probably continue to be — regarded as white first, South Asian a distant second. Nothing in their appearance would suggest otherwise, and who’s to say whether, once they realize that people see them as white, they will feel the need to set the record straight? Most people prefer the straightforward to the complex — especially when it when it comes to conversations about race.

A Pew Research Center study released in June, “Multiracial in America,” reports that “biracial adults who are white and Asian say they have more in common with whites than they do with Asians” and “are more likely to say they feel accepted by whites than by Asians.” While 76 percent of all mixed-­race Americans claim that their backgrounds have made “no difference” in their lives, the data and anecdotes included in the study nevertheless underscore how, for a fair number of us, words like “multiracial” and “biracial” are awkward and inadequate, denoting identities that are fluid for some and fixed for others…

…My interactions with the world also underscored that biracial children are not in any way created equal — others’ interpretations of us are informed by assumptions based on appearance. Few black-white biracial Americans, compared with multiracial Asian-­whites, have the privilege of easily “passing“: Our blackness defines us and marks us in a way that mixed-­race parentage in others does not. As the Pew survey explains, children of Native American-­white parents make up over half of the country’s multiracial population and, like Asian-­white children, are usually thought of as white. The survey also reports that although the number of black-white biracial Americans more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, 69 percent of them say that most others see them solely as black; “for multiracial adults with a black background,” Pew notes, “experiences with discrimination closely mirror those of single-­race blacks.”..

Read the entire article here.

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Why racism is not backed by science

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-06-29 22:37Z by Steven

Why racism is not backed by science

Raw Story

Adam Rutherford
The Guardian

As we harvest ever more human genomes one fact remains unshakeable: race does not exist

Barely a week goes by without some dispiriting tale of racism seeping into the public consciousness: the endless stream of Ukip supporters expressing some ill-conceived and unimaginative hate; football hooligans pushing a black man from a train. I am partly of Indian descent, a bit swarthy, and my first experience of racism was more baffling than upsetting. In 1982, my dad, sister and I were at the Co-op in a small village in Suffolk where we lived, when some boys shouted “Coco and Leroy ” at us. Fame was the big hit on telly at the time, and they were the lead characters. My sister and I thought this was excellent: both amazing dancers and supremely attractive: we did bad splits all the way home.

As someone who writes about evolution and genetics – both of which involve the study of inheritance, and both of which rely on making quantitative comparisons between living things – I often receive letters from people associating Darwin with racism, usually citing the use of the words “favoured races” in the lengthy subtitle to his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species. Of course, Darwin doesn’t discuss humans in that great book, and “races” was used to describe groups within non-human species. Contemporary use of language must be taken into account…

…We now know that the way we talk about race has no scientific validity. There is no genetic basis that corresponds with any particular group of people, no essentialist DNA for black people or white people or anyone. This is not a hippy ideal, it’s a fact. There are genetic characteristics that associate with certain populations, but none of these is exclusive, nor correspond uniquely with any one group that might fit a racial epithet. Regional adaptations are real, but these tend to express difference within so-called races, not between them. Sickle-cell anaemia affects people of all skin colours because it has evolved where malaria is common. Tibetans are genetically adapted to high altitude, rendering Chinese residents of Beijing more similar to Europeans than their superficially similar neighbours. Tay-Sachs disease, once thought to be a “Jewish disease”, is as common in French Canadians and Cajuns. And so it goes on…

Read the entire article here.

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How Race Is Conjured

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-06-29 22:20Z by Steven

How Race Is Conjured


Karen E. Fields, Independent Scholar

Barbara J. Fields, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

Cabs in Albany, GA (1962). Warren K. Leffler / Library of Congress

The fiction of race hides the real source of racism and inequity in America today.

In the three years since Trayvon Martin was killed, the realities of police racism and violence, of segregation from schools to swimming pools, and of the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow have returned to mainstream discussions. And now as Confederate flags disappear in the wake of the murders in Charleston, racism is once again at the center of the popular consciousness.

There is a window, then, for the US left to push a deeper and broader conversation about the implications of racism and to build working-class organizations that fight for social justice for all.

But that opportunity will only be open to the degree we can overcome the ideological legacy of the last three decades. Since the 1980s, structural inequality has been increasingly replaced by personal responsibility as the main explanation for gross inequality. At the same time, attention to persistent and structural racism faded, supplanted by a focus on race and “race relations.”

This could not have been possible without the enshrinement of race as a natural category, the spread of the fiction that certain traits define members of one “race” and differentiate them from members of other races.

No one has better articulated why race cannot serve as the starting point for discussions about inequality in the United States — and what we miss when they are — than Barbara and Karen Fields, authors of the 2012 book Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life.

Barbara and Karen were interviewed for Jacobin last week by Jason Farbman, a member of the International Socialist Organization in New York…

Read the entire interview here.

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Review: Misty Copeland Debuts as Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake’

Posted in Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-29 22:05Z by Steven

Review: Misty Copeland Debuts as Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake’

The New York Times

Alastair Macaulay, Dance Critic

Misty Copeland and James Whiteside in “Swan Lake.” Julieta Cervantes for The New York Times

When Misty Copeland made her New York debut in the double role of Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake,” the most epic role in world ballet, two aspects of the performance on Wednesday afternoon proved marvelous. One: that it all happened successfully. Two: the curtain calls.

Let everyone know henceforth that an African-American ballerina has danced this exalted role with American Ballet Theater at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera House. Let everyone know that other African-American dancers, Raven Wilkinson (who danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1955-61) and Lauren Anderson (who, with the Houston Ballet, was the first African-American ballerina to become a principal of an American ballet company), brought her bouquets onstage. And let everyone know that her fellow dancers shared her applause with pride. (The enthusiasm and affection shown by James Whiteside, who partnered her as Prince Siegfried, was especially engaging.)

As Odette, the Swan Queen, Ms. Copeland has moments of courage and grandeur when you feel the heroic scale of Tchaikovsky’s celebrated drama. She runs boldly around the stage like a creature accustomed to vast space; she raises her arms with the epic sweep of mighty wings. In other respects, she’s admirable but without striking individuality. The substance of “Swan Lake” is there, but in potential. I hope she dances it again and reveals more in it…

Read the entire review here.

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Mat Johnson On ‘Loving Day’ And Life As A ‘Black Boy’ Who Looks White

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-29 21:11Z by Steven

Mat Johnson On ‘Loving Day’ And Life As A ‘Black Boy’ Who Looks White

Fresh Air
National Public Radio

Terry Gross, Host

As a biracial child growing up in Philadelphia, writer Mat Johnson identified as black – but looked white. His new novel is about a man who returns to his hometown after inheriting a run-down mansion.


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. In a personal essay called “Approving My Blackness,” my guest Mat Johnson wrote, I grew up a black boy who looked like a white one. His African-American mother and Irish-American father divorced when he was 4. He says, I was raised mostly by my black mom in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia during the Black Power movement. So there was quite a contrast between how he saw himself and how others saw him.

Race and identity are also themes of his novel “Pym” and his comic book “Incognegro.” The main character in Johnson’s new satirical novel “Loving Day” is a comic book artist who, like Mat Johnson, is biracial but to many people looks white. When the novel opens, he’s newly divorced and has just returned to Germantown, the Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up because his father, who just died, bequeathed him a huge, old wreck of a mansion that he bought in an auction but was never able to renovate.

A mansion in the ghetto is how Johnson describes it. The character doesn’t know what to do with the mansion or his life. The book’s title, “Loving Day,” refers to the day of the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision Loving v. Virginia, which struck down all laws banning interracial marriage.

Mat Johnson, welcome to FRESH AIR. I’d love to start with a reading. So this reading happens when the main character is at a small comic book convention, and he finds himself placed on the panel of African-American comic book authors. And he knows because he looks white that people will assume, like, what is he doing there? And in fact, somebody asks, like, what are you doing on this panel? And if you could pick it up from there.

MAT JOHNSON: (Reading) Why am I at the black table? I’m a local writer just back in town, you know, peddling my wares, I tell them, then babble on a bit more, eventually getting to my name and the last book I worked on…

Listen to the interview here (00:38:01). Download the interview here. Read the transcript here.


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What President Obama’s historic week means for his legacy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-06-29 20:58Z by Steven

What President Obama’s historic week means for his legacy


Benjy Sarlin, Political Reporter

Every occupant of the White House experiences more than one presidency. There’s their actual time in office, an experience characterized by constant political conflict, a drumbeat of unanticipated crises large and small, and a trudging slog towards policy goals. Then there’s the version of their presidency that comes after they leave, as memories fade and history chisels away the various minor dramas until eventually all that remains for most Americans is an ultra­-condensed summary. This is the version passed down through generations, to those who never experienced that president’s tenure themselves and whose sense of history stems from one or two paragraphs in their high school textbook.

More than any other period in his presidency, the past week’s rapid succession of once­-in-­a-­lifetime moments closed the gap between President Obama’s day­ to ­day travails and his larger place in history.

“Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens,” as Obama put it in his response to the Supreme Court’s same sex marriage ruling Friday. “And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

For a few days in June, change was dizzying in pace and so real it could be touched. Universal health care, as one conservative put it, is forever, thanks to the Supreme Court knocking down the Affordable Care Act’s last significant remaining challenge. Marriage equality is forever. This week’s bipartisan exorcism of the Confederacy’s 150­-year old demons is forever.

The avalanche of news sparked a discussion of two emerging views on Obama’s legacy – one focused on his policy accomplishments, the other as a symbol of underlying changes in the country that will long outlive his presidency…

…Obama’s election as the first black president – powered by landslide margins with black and Latino voters and historic turnout by younger voters – was hailed as a historic moment, but it was eclipsed almost immediately by the massive challenges that landed on his desk and the intense backlash his policy responses provoked on the right. The scope of this achievement came jarringly back into picture on Friday, however, when, as the Associated Press described it, ”America’s first black president sang [Amazing Grace], less than a mile from the spot where thousands of slaves were sold and where South Carolina signed its pact to leave the union a century and a half earlier.” It will move more and more to the forefront once there’s a new president dealing with the 24/7 reality show that is the White House and Obama settles into the more non-partisan, ceremonial role his surviving predecessors occupy today…

Read the entire article here.

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Driven by Love or Ambition, Slipping Across the Color Line Through the Ages

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-29 20:33Z by Steven

Driven by Love or Ambition, Slipping Across the Color Line Through the Ages

The New York Times

Rachel L. Swarns

Clarence King, a Yale-educated white man who worked as a geologist in the 1800s and dined at the White House, lived a secret life as James Todd, a black train porter with a wife and five children in Brooklyn.

The railroad carried him to the hot springs of Arkansas, the copper mines of Montana and the gold fields of the Pacific Northwest. Weary, lonesome and ailing, he sent letters of love and longing to his wife in New York City.

“I can see your dear face every night when I lay my head on the pillow,” he wrote. “I think of you and dream of you, and my first waking thought is of your dear face and your loving heart.”

Ada Todd saved those letters, symbols of devotion from her husband, James Todd, a fair-skinned black man from Baltimore who worked as a Pullman porter in the late 1800s, and spent weeks and sometimes months away from home.

His earnings allowed the family to move from a cramped, predominantly African-American section of Vinegar Hill in Brooklyn to a more residential street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, to a spacious 11-room house in Flushing, Queens. It was only when he was dying in 1901 that Ms. Todd finally began to piece together the truth: Her husband was not from Baltimore. He was not a Pullman porter. And he was not a black man…

…Yet 19th-century history is dotted with such cases. White men and women driven by love, ambition or other circumstances sometimes leapt across the racial chasm, defying state laws and social conventions designed to keep blacks and whites apart.

“We’ll never know how many people did it,” said Martha A. Sandweiss, a historian at Princeton University who documented Mr. King’s double life for the first time in her book “Passing Strange,” which was published in 2009.

“If they did it well,” she said, “they’re invisible.”

Clarence King did it well…

Read the entire article here.

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Art is Cool || Episode 1 || Beth Consetta Rubel

Posted in Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2015-06-29 20:13Z by Steven

Art is Cool || Episode 1 || Beth Consetta Rubel

Fum Fum Ko

Art is Cool is a new documentary web series centered on inspirational artists. The series builds an intimate portrayal of the artist and their work.
Directed/Produced by Fum Fum Ko.

The premiere of the first episode features visual artist, Beth Consetta Rubel. Beth Consetta Rubel uses mix media to create breathtaking projects centered on her personal narrative, race, pop culture, and stereotypes. Check out her site:

From her Artist Statement:

“I draw upon my personal narrative and am highly influenced by diversity, assimilation, and stereotypes in American culture. The intersection of race and pop culture are fundamental components that invigorate my paintings. The process of rummaging thrift stores to find antique photos, yellow and curling at the edges, vintage postcards, and cast iron objects with a history are a bases for my work. Nostalgic blues music and rhythmic jazz shape the atmosphere in which I work. I explore and dissect Deep South mentality, black face minstrel shows, and the stereotypes present in all outlets of media. I aggressively approach my paintings with an expressive application. I utilize layers of chalk pastel, acrylic, gouache, fabric and found objects and assemble paper cut outs to create a pop-up effect that speculate the irony of subtle racism that shape our society. Is racism permanently embedded in our culture, or is it a learned behavior that is exploited in media and fed to the masses? The subjects of my works include both historical and mainstream imagery that evaluate these questions and embrace contradictions that are philosophical, sexual and emotional.”

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