Mixed Race and the Media: Notes from a Workshop

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive on 2019-08-01 20:32Z by Steven

Mixed Race and the Media: Notes from a Workshop

Afropean. Adventures in Black Europe

Nina Camara

Multiracial people are very visible in popular culture, however, what picture(s) does it paint?

As someone who grew up in a culture where people of colour are a small minority, I always felt ambiguous about the attention directed at us as a result of our difference. I longed to find out about the experiences of other mixed-race individuals. Living in London finally enabled me to explore this collective experience and create a space to have these discussions. In order to do so, I facilitated an informal workshop which brought together people of mixed-race origins to reflect upon our portrayals in various media outlets and their wider impact.

The group consisted of 8 individuals with heritages spanning many cultures, including the Middle East, Britain, Eastern Europe, India, Jamaica, the US (including Native American heritage) and Nigeria. Through a series of activities, we explored our self-perceptions, examples of how the mixed-race experience is represented across various media outlets and popular beliefs that are pervasive in wider society about mixed-race people. Upon reflection, it was a good learning curve and a fun way to ponder the complexity of mixed-race experience on a relaxed Sunday afternoon. Here is a quick summary of our conversation…

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“How Does It Feel to Be Born a Problem?”

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2019-08-01 15:24Z by Steven

“How Does It Feel to Be Born a Problem?”

First Published 2019-07-29
DOI: 10.1177/1536504219864959

Whitney N. Laster Pirtle, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of California, Merced


Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, Spiegel & Grau, 2016, 304 pages

How does it feel to be a problem? W.E.B. Du Bois posed this question over a century ago to critique American institutions that constructed being American as White, and therefore, made being Black an inherent problem in White America. Du Bois’s question was also a demand: that we reflect on and critique a system of racial oppression that teaches those in subjugated positions that their very being is problematic.

Interestingly, this is also a question that Trevor Noah, South African comedian and host of Comedy Central’s award-winning newscast The Daily Show, engages in his highly acclaimed memoir, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Though Noah is not a trained sociologist, he uses the complexity and absurdity of his life to tease out numerous sociological concepts. Throughout his odyssey, he places issues of race and identity at the forefront. The most salient question is what does it mean to be born a problem?

The book begins with an excerpt from South Africa’s 1927 Immorality Act, which deemed any “European” person who had intercourse with a “native” person “guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment.” It is no accident that Noah begins his memoir by citing this linchpin legislation that set in motion the apartheid regime in South Africa. During this period, distinct racial lines were drawn in order to enforce a rigid racial hierarchy privileging a small White ruling class and disadvantaging all others. If a society is to be structured along distinct racial lines, those lines cannot be blurred. As Noah puts it, “[b]ecause a mixed person embodies that rebuke to the logic of the systems, race-mixing becomes a crime worse than treason” (p. 21). Thus, when Noah’s African mother decided to have a child with a White Swiss-German man in 1984, their son’s birth was, in fact, a crime…

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