How I Got Over: ‘One Drop of Love’ Performance and Conversation

Posted in Arts, Census/Demographics, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-04-06 02:09Z by Steven

How I Got Over: ‘One Drop of Love’ Performance and Conversation

The Greene Space
44 Charlton Street (corner of Varick Street), New York, New York
Thursday, 2017-04-06, 19:00 EDT (Local Time)

One Drop of Love (Photo by David Scarcliff)

Join us for a special presentation of “One Drop of Love,” a multimedia solo performance that explores the intersections of race, class and gender in search of truth, justice and love.

Written and performed by Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, the interactive show parallels the history of changing demographics in the U.S. with DiGiovanni’s own family history, traveling from the 1700s to the present.

The ultimate goal of the performance is to encourage the discussion of race and racism openly and critically, and to commit to making the world more liberated for all.

WNYC editor Rebecca Carroll hosts a post-performance conversation with DiGiovanni as part of The Greene Space’s ongoing How I Got Over series.

For more information, click here.

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Black Like Malcolm: Rewriting of Black Like Me (1961) in Soul Sister (1969)

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-04-06 02:01Z by Steven

Black Like Malcolm: Rewriting of Black Like Me (1961) in Soul Sister (1969)

Volume 58, Number 1, Winter 2016
pages 35-58

Martha J. Cutter, Professor of English and Africana Studies
University of Connecticut

Many students and scholars of American literature and history have heard of, if not read, John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me (1961), the autobiographical account of a white reporter who takes medication to darken his skin and pass for black in the Jim Crow South in the late 1950s in order to investigate racial prejudice. When first published, Black Like Me was lauded as a powerful text about racial injustice and employed as a standard part of some high school curricula; the work also eventually was translated into fourteen languages, hit the best-seller list in England and France, and became a multimillion-copy best seller in the United States. Black Like Me has since fallen into critical disfavor and is rarely taught in high schools, yet some of my students still know the title and can recount the plot, and contemporary African American artists such as Glenn Ligon nevertheless make overt reference to it. Very few students and scholars are familiar with Grace Halsell’s underexamined and now out-of-print memoir Soul Sister (1969), a sort of sequel to Griffin’s more famous text, in which a white female reporter undergoes the same sort of transformation to pass for black. Yet Halsell’s text does more than parallel Griffin’s process of racial transformation—it also rewrites it. Griffin has been critiqued by (among others) literary critics such as Gayle Wald for portraying himself as the white protagonist of his own civil rights drama; according to Wald, Griffin’s book “largely fails to represent black people acting as social and political agents.” Through examination of the historical context in which both texts were written—the emergence of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements—this essay demonstrates that Halsell attempts to revise Black Like Me’s focus on a portrait of black powerlessness, pathos, and lack of voice; she also uses her narrative to articulate a plural construct of black subjectivity that cannot be contained by her own experience of blackness, by her own racial passing.

Of course, eight years separate the publication of these texts, watershed years in which black political movements became both more prominent and more radicalized, especially after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 and Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that Halsell (writing in 1969) inserts a political context of social activism, civil rights, and ultimately black power. Yet both reporters mobilize political context (or a lack of political context) to further certain narrative goals that in the end result in divergent approaches to the concept of black political struggle, as well as the function and meaning of white racial passing. Griffin evacuates political context to focus on a portrait of black misery; in so doing, he forwards a static, monolithic conception of black identity as one of unchanging abjection. Halsell, on the other hand, fills her text with political debate and contradictory black political positions; she thus presents a multivalent representation of black political engagement while also probing racial formation itself. Each text therefore seeks to use the genre of the white-passing narrative to motivate readers toward social change, but this change is grounded in different subject positions articulated for the reader. Griffin’s narrative attempts to move his readers to action by portraying a picture of black victimization and misery, whereas Halsell’s endeavors to revolutionize her readers by depicting her own transition into black militancy. And while Griffin’s narrative invokes a mode of social activism present from the earliest days of the Abolition Movement—pity and supplication—Halsell portrays a mode of political activism in which the oppressed seize power and become agents of social change.

Most importantly, Halsell also portrays a white failure—ultimately—to speak for African Americans or even fully comprehend their struggle; at key junctures, her text instead turns back onto itself as an exploration of white racial privilege and power. Wald has noted that racial passing, in addition to signifying a manner of being seen “according to the technologies of vision…

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Japan Reborn: Mixed-Race Children, Eugenic Nationalism, and the Politics of Sex after World War II

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, United States on 2017-04-06 01:29Z by Steven

Japan Reborn: Mixed-Race Children, Eugenic Nationalism, and the Politics of Sex after World War II

Columbia University
DOI: 10.7916/D83F4NS4

Kristin A. Roebuck, ‎Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in History
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

In April 1952, Japan emerged from Allied occupation free, peaceful, and democratic.

Japan’s presses marked the occasion by declaring a state of crisis: the “konketsuji [mixed-blood children] crisis.” By all accounts, Allied soldiers had sired and abandoned two hundred thousand “mixed-blood” orphans in Japan. However, Chapter One reveals this to be a fabricated crisis or “moral panic.” Surveys found only a few thousand konketsuji nationwide, very few of them orphans. Yet these discoveries did little to change the tenor of “crisis.” Opposition politicians deployed wrath and fear over “blood mixing” to discredit the dominant Liberal Party and its alliance with the United States. They were abetted by an array of postwar activists who used the “crisis” to reconstruct Japanese nationalism, laid low by defeat and occupation, on a new basis: the “pure” race rather than the failed state.

Chapter Two explores how the panic over “blood mixing” inevitably embroiled not just children but women as well. Japanese women were subject to intense pressures to eschew sex and family formation with Western men, and to abort “mixed” fetuses on eugenic grounds rather than bear them to term. 1948 marked the beginning of the end of criminal prosecution of abortion in Japan. The law that inaugurated this shift, the Eugenic Protection Law (EPL), is generally viewed as an advancement in women’s rights, despite the fact that the EPL envisioned and promoted the use of abortion as a means of managing the “quality and quantity” of Japan’s population.

Scholarship on the links between eugenics and the decriminalization of abortion in Japan is vast, but scholars have yet to probe deeply into how eugenic abortion was applied to control—or forestall—“race mixing” after the war. Although it was politically impossible for the government to impose abortions outright on women who might be pregnant with the children of Japan’s conquerors, such women were nonetheless targeted for eugenic intervention. For these women, abortion was not an option granted in a liberal democracy concerned with women’s rights. Abortion was an imperative imposed by a diverse array of governmental and non-governmental actors united behind an ideology of “pure blood.”

Chapter Three explains how postwar scientific presses framed konketsuji born in the wake of World War II as an unprecedented presence. Geneticists, physical anthropologists, clinicians, and other researchers from the late 1940s through the 1970s deployed a “system of silences” to erase Japan’s prewar konketsuji community from view. They thereby not only constructed the Japanese as a racial community bounded by “pure blood,” but denied that the racialized nation ever had or ever could assimilate foreign elements. Scientific spokesmen effected the discursive purification of Japan despite resistance from “mixed-blood” adults who organized to contest the rising tide of racial nationalism. In the process, these scientists severely undercut the “mixed” community’s advocacy of a civically rather than biologically constituted nation.

Chapter Four contrasts the decline of race science and eugenics in the West with their efflorescence in postwar Japan, where conditions of occupation heightened the relevance of racial eugenics as a prescription for national unity and strength. It is well known that Anglophone genetics and physical anthropology were led at the mid-century by immigrants and minorities, prominently including Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ashley Montagu. Yet without comparative analysis, it is difficult to weigh the significance of this fact, or of the fact that minorities did not lead the Japanese sciences. Japanese geneticists and anthropologists who identified as having “pure Japanese blood” never questioned that biopolitical category or the costs it imposed on those it excluded.

I argue that who practiced science counts for much more than is allowed by objectivist narratives of self-correcting scientific “progress.” My project explains for the first time why racial nationalism and an ethos of ethnic cleansing triumphed in Japan at the very moment these forces receded in other contexts.

Embargoed until 2017-06-30.

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Brazil’s New Problem With Blackness

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Campus Life, Caribbean/Latin America, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2017-04-06 00:55Z by Steven

Brazil’s New Problem With Blackness

Foreign Policy

Cleuci de Oliveira
Brasília, Brazil

As the proudly mixed-race country grapples with its legacy of slavery, affirmative-action race tribunals are measuring skull shape and nose width to determine who counts as disadvantaged.

PELOTAS, Brazil – Late last year Fernando received news he had dreaded for months: he and 23 of his classmates had been kicked out of college. The expulsion became national news in Brazil. Fernando and his classmates may not have been publicly named (“Fernando,” in fact, is a pseudonym), but they were roundly vilified as a group. The headline run by weekly magazine CartaCapital — “White Students Expelled from University for Defrauding Affirmative Action System” — makes it clear why.

But the headline clashes with how Fernando sees himself. He identifies as pardo, or brown: a mixed-race person with black ancestry. His family has struggled with discrimination ever since his white grandfather married his black grandmother, he told me. “My grandfather was accused of soiling the family blood,” he said, and was subsequently cut out of an inheritance. So when he applied to a prestigious medical program at the Federal University of Pelotas, in the southern tip of Brazil, he took advantage of recent legislation that set aside places for black, brown, and indigenous students across the country’s public institutions.

While affirmative action policies were introduced to U.S. universities in the 1970s, Brazil didn’t begin experimenting with the concept until 2001, in part because affirmative action collided head-on with a defining feature of Brazilian identity. For much of the twentieth century, intellectual and political leaders promoted the idea that Brazil was a “racial democracy,” whose history favorably contrasted with the state-enforced segregation and violence of Jim Crow America and apartheid South Africa. “Racial democracy,” a term popularized by anthropologists in the 1940s, has long been a source of pride among Brazilians…

Read the entire article here.

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