Biracial versus black: Thought leaders weigh in on the meaning of President Obama’s biracial heritage

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-03-16 16:46Z by Steven

Biracial versus black: Thought leaders weigh in on the meaning of President Obama’s biracial heritage

theGrio
NBC News
2012-11-19

Patrice Peck

“If I’m lucky enough to have children, I won’t tell them that Barack Obama was America’s first black president.”

Thus began columnist Clinton Yates’ piece, “Barack Obama: Let’s not forget that he’s America’s first bi-racial president”. Published on The Washington Post website two days after the 2012 election, Yates’ piece explores the notion that singling out President Obama’s African heritage alone has resulted in an incomplete narrative of his identity.

“As a black man who plans to eventually start a family with my white girlfriend, I’m going to tell [my future children] that Obama was the first man of color in the White House and that America’s 44th president was biracial,” writes Yates. “What would I look like telling my kids that a man with a black father and a white mother is ‘black’ just because society wants him to be?” Yates’ stance on President Obama’s racial identity points to an on-going, complicated debate surrounding the president’s race and how he chooses to identify himself.

Since Obama’s second presidential election win, countless media outlets have analyzed the major support in voter turnout exhibited by African-Americans and Latinos for the president. At the same time, an overwhelming amount of racist backlash surged on Twitter for several days, signaling the fact that, for better or for worse, race will likely always be a predominant element to consider during Obama’s term as president.

Yet, most reports on and reactions to President Obama have failed to mention his biracial heritage. It is rarely addressed in discussions concerning how the public identifies Obama, or critiques of how the president identifies himself. Yates’ consideration of Obama as the “first bi-racial president” is rare in its vociferous proclamation to define the man by both lineages.

To widen this limited discourse, we asked some of the nation’s leading authorities on biracial and multi-racial issues to share their thoughts on the president’s self-identification as black, and the possible stakes of not addressing his bi-racial identity more directly. These leaders offer interesting and at times surprising perspectives on what it means to have not only a black man, but also a biracial man in the White House.

Here is what they told theGrio about this historic first. How do you think President Obama’s bi-racial ancestry influences the nature of his presidency?

Steven F. Riley, founder of MixedRacesStudies.org

In the paper “Barack, Blackness, Borders and Beyond: Exploring Obama’s Racial Identity Today as a Means of Transcending Race Tomorrow,” I explained that the president is black for three different reasons. I used a sociological framework, an ethnological framework, and a psychological framework. Number one, I say he’s black because he says he is. Number two, his heterogeneity, or his mixed background, is no different from people who are black. And then lastly, I say he’s black because he looks black, from a sociological viewpoint…

Yaba Blay, author of (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race and artistic director of the multiplatform (1)ne Drop project

Everyone seems to be negating President Barack Obama’s own story. The man himself has said publicly in print that, yes, his mother is white; yes, he is technically bi-racial, mixed race, whatever the language is people choose to use, but in this racialized society he is seen as a black man. And for that reason he identifies as black

Andrew Jolivétte, Associate Professor at San Francisco State University and editor of Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for the New American Majority

For mixed people, being mixed you identify differently at different times and in different situations. I think the president is no different, so [a bi-racial] child still can take pride in [the fact] that President Obama is a bi-racial president. But he’s also a black president. I don’t think that they’re mutually exclusive. And that’s what happens often in politics when it comes to policy, that it has to be one or the other, not some sort of combination of policies that can be good. Because he’s bi-racial and always compromising and trying to find the balance between two different identities, I think he tries to do the same things in terms of his policy…

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Professor of Ethnic Studies at Stanford University and author of When Half is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities

I think his identifying [as African-American] is very positive. On the other hand, I think there’s nothing creative or innovative or groundbreaking or revolutionary about [his identifying as black.] It’s very much following the status quo of the way that a majority of people expect him to identify… I personally didn’t have a lot of expectations about his ability to really go beyond what would be the mainstream position in terms of how he labeled and located himself. I have hopes that he might help us to go beyond these kinds of rigid racial classifications and categories. I think he could do that if he was able to identify himself more openly with all the different parts of his heritage…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority [Andrews Review]

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-08 18:15Z by Steven

Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority [Andrews Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 36, Issue 5 (May 2013)
pages 918-919
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2012.758864

Matthew T. M. Andrews
Department of Sociology
University of Michigan

Andrew J. Jolivétte (ed), Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority, Bristol: Policy Press. 2012. v+237 pp. (paper)

In Obama and the Biracial Factor, Andrew Jolivétte edits a collection of essays that critically explore the role of U.S. President Barack Obama’s biracial background not only in his 2008 election and first term in office but also in the context of an increasingly multiracial USA. This volume is part of a multidisciplinary body of scholarship on ‘mixed race’ or multiracialily that has grown exponentially in the USA and the UK over the past two decades. However, it also departs from this scholarship’s tendency to focus exclusively on the topics of identity formation and racial classification on government forms. Instead, utilizing the timely case of President Obama ‘the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas’ the book examines what Jolivétte terms ‘mixed race hegemony’, the assertion that ‘biracial and multiracial individuals and families will lead to the end of a race-conscious and racially-discriminatory society in the United States’ (p. 4). Through various disciplinary lenses, the volume’s authors more or less expound on this concept to imagine a ‘post-racist’ rather than ‘post-racial’ USA.

The book’s first section. ‘The Biracial factor in America’, explores how narratives of ‘mixed race’ have shaped the past and present US race relations. In his chapter. G. Reginald Daniel situates Obama’s 2008 election within Daniel’s body of influential work on multiracial identity and considers the egalitarian possibilities of a ‘critical multiraciality’, which emphasizes cross-racial, coalition building and shared ancestral and cultural connections. Next, in ‘A Patchwork Heritage’, Justin Ponder offers an insightful close reading of Obama’s autobiography Dreams from My Father and argues that its rhetorical appeal lies less in Obama’s “accurate* portrayal of himself as African American than in his indeterminate citation of others, especially his white mother, complicating easy representations of his racial identity. Finally. Darryl Barthé,  Jr. charts the historical origins of ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’ in the USA to challenge the ‘racial revisionism’ in debates surrounding President Obama’s black identity.

The volume’s second section. “Beyond Black and While Identity Polities’, considers the gendered, global and cultural implications of President Obama’s biraciality beyond black white racial politics. Wei Ming Dairiotis and Grace Yoo draw on a nation-wide survey of ‘Obama Mamas’ or mothers who supported Obama’s 2008 campaign and show how many perceived him as a potential ‘bridge builder’ that could provide a more peaceful future for their children. In her perceptive chapter. ‘Is “No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama?”‘, Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain contends that Ireland’s embrace of Obama’s Irish heritage illustrates an unprecedented decoupling of ancestry and phenotype in contemporary racial thinking. This section also includes an additional essay by Dariotis. in which she extends her notion of ‘mixed race kin aesthetic’ to explain Obama’s global appeal, and a chapter by Zebulon Vance Miletsky. who uses Obama’s ‘mutt like me’ comment as an entry point into a historically informed analysis of questions around his ‘racial authenticity’.

The book’s final section, ‘The Battle for the New American Majority’, addresses existing challenges for President Obama and Americans more generally in realizing a truly diverse American majority. In his essay, Robert Keith Collins employs person-centred ethnography to critique monolithic conceptions of ‘blackness’ that undergird debates around Obama’s…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Obama Should Talk About Being Biracial

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-01-20 22:52Z by Steven

Obama Should Talk About Being Biracial

The Daily Beast
2013-01-20

David Kaufman

The President identifies as black, but David Kaufman hopes that during his second term, he’ll also discuss his biracial heritage.

Four years after he first entered the White House, there’s no longer anything surprising about calling Barack Obama—America’s first black president—a “transformational” leader. Yet the full extent of Obama’s transformational potential has yet to be realized in one realm: his biracial heritage.

Obama’s 1995 book Dreams from my Father makes clear that his identity was influenced as much—if not more—by his Caucasian mother than his absentee African father. But since he won the Democratic nomination in 2008, both Obama and the media seem to have shut the closet door on his multi-culti background. With his black wife and children by his side, Obama certainly represents an aspirational—and much-needed—African-American cultural ideal. But with one half of his family history so conspicuously overlooked, whether by circumstance or design, that ideal is not the entire story of his identity.

To a certain extent, I think it’s been an act,” San Francisco State University Professor Andrew Jolivétte—editor of Obama and the Biracial Factor, a collection of essays—says of the president’s mono-racial messaging. “The President has been afraid to speak more openly about being biracial because it could be read in so many different ways.”…

…With so few journalists actually asking the President about being mixed-race, Obama has conversely had very little to tell them. Or maybe because he’s so publicly—and repeatedly—identified as black in the past, the President simply feels he has nothing left to reveal. “Some might suggest he’s purposely not talking about it, but perhaps his mixed heritage is no longer some on-going restless question for Obama,” suggests Michele Elam, Professor in the Department of English and the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford. “I don’t think he’s repressing his mixed heritage or capitulating to the ‘one-drop’ rule,” Elam continues. “For Obama, the choice to identify as black has never been merely about biology or blood … He sees blackness as containing differences of experience and ancestry.”…

Read the entire aritcle here.

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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
2012-02-21

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.

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In many ways, Obama’s story provides a possible model for black­ descended multiracial people in that racial acceptance and success depends on an identity that is closely tied to blackness…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-04-22 19:35Z by Steven

In many ways, Obama’s story provides a possible model for black­ descended multiracial people in that racial acceptance and success depends on an identity that is closely tied to blackness. In the larger sense, Obama reconciles the tensions between what G. Reginald Daniel has called “multigenerational multiracials,” that is to say, the category that most African Americans fall into as a racially mixed people, and “first-generation” multiracial people who have one parent that identifies as monoracially white and another that identifies as monoracially black. The question is: does this require an African American identification or can it simply be a multiracial identity that affirms one’s connection to the African Diaspora and the black experience? Had Obama identified more with the white side of his parental lineage, or even more strongly as a mixed race person, many Americans might not today know the name Barack Obama. The important point to take away from this memoir is that in the end, the protagonist, the hero, does not choose a mixed race identity but, rather, an African American one. To do otherwise would surely have antagonized and alienated African American support and acceptance. Anything less than full and absolute acceptance of an African American identity would have cost Obama severely.

Zebulon Vance Miletsky, “Mutt like me: Barack Obama and the Mixed Race Experience in Historical Perspective,” in Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority, edited by Andrew J. Jolivétte (Bristol: The Policy Press, 2012), 149-150.

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Mixed race hegemony, I argue, is the assertion by neoliberals, ethnocentric nationalists, and by some mixed race people themselves that biracial and multiracial individuals and families will lead to the end of a race-conscious and racially-discriminatory society in the United States.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-04-13 03:15Z by Steven

Mixed race hegemony, I argue, is the assertion by neoliberals, ethnocentric nationalists, and by some mixed race people themselves that biracial and multiracial individuals and families will lead to the end of a race-conscious and racially-discriminatory society in the United States.  In other words ethnic nationalists believe that multiracial people dilute the resources of people of color and strides that have been made as a result of civil rights while neoliberals articulate an ideology of multiraciality as the next logical stage in a “colorblind” or “post-racial” society. On both sides hegemonic ideologies are used to control the way that people of color and whites understand and respond to the growing population that identifies with being of multiple ethnic backgrounds.

Andrew J. Jolivétte, “Obama and the Biracial Factor: an Introduction,” in Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority, edited by Andrew J. Jolivétte (Bristol: The Policy Press, 2012), 4.

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Professor Andrew Jolivétte to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Posted in Audio, Gay & Lesbian, Interviews, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-04-11 04:03Z by Steven

Professor Andrew Jolivétte to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Mixed Chicks Chat (Founders of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival)
Hosted by Fanshen Cox, Heidi W. Durrow and Jennifer Frappier
Website: TalkShoe™ (Keywords: Mixed Chicks)
Episode: 252-Professor Andrew Jolivétte
When: Wednesday, 2012-04-11, 21:00Z (17:00 EDT, 14:00 PDT)

Andrew Jolivétte, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies
Center for Health Disparities Research and Training
San Fransisco State University

Dr. Jolivétte is a mixed-race studies specialist with a particular interest in Comparative Race Relations, the Urban Indian Experience, People of Color and Popular Culture, Critical Mixed Race Studies and Social Justice, Creole studies, Black-Indians, and mixed-race health disparities. He has been an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of San Francisco and a Researcher with the University of California, San Francisco on issues of racial violence among African American and Latino/a youth in the Bay Area.

Dr. Jolivétte is the edtitor and contributor to the recent anthology tittled, Obama and the Biracial Factor, which is the first book to explore the significance of mixed-race identity as a key factor in the election of President Obama and examines the sociological and political relationship between race, power, and public policy in the United States with an emphasis on public discourse and ethnic representation in his election.

Selected Bibliography:

Listen to the interview here.

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Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority

Posted in Anthologies, Barack Obama, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-03-11 17:50Z by Steven

Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority

Policy Press
February 2012
256 pages
234 x 156 mm
Hardback ISBN-10: 1447301005; ISBN-13: 978-1447301004

Andrew J. Jolivétte, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies (Also see biographies at Speak Out! and Native Wiki.)
Center for Health Disparities Research and Training
San Fransisco State University

Since the election in 2008 of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States there have been a plethora of books, films, and articles about the role of race in the election of the first person of color to the White House. None of these works though delves into the intricacies of Mr. Obama’s biracial background and what it means, not only in terms of how the President was elected and is now governing, but what multiraciality may mean in the context of a changing U.S. demographic. Obama and the Biracial Factor is the first book to explore the significance of mixed-race identity as a key factor in the election of President Obama and examines the sociological and political relationship between race, power, and public policy in the United States with an emphasis on public discourse and ethnic representation in his election. Jolivette and his co-authors bring biracial identity and multiraciality to forefront of our understanding of racial projects since his election. Additionally, the authors assert the salience of mixed-race identity in U.S. policy and the on-going impact of the media and popular culture on the development, implementation, and interpretation of government policy and ethnic relations in the U.S. and globally. This timely work offers foundational analysis and theorization of key new concepts such as mixed-race hegemony and critical mixed race pedagogy and a nuanced exploration of the on-going significance of race in the contemporary political context of the United States with international examples of the impact on U.S. foreign relations and a shifting American electorate. Demographic issues are explained as they relate to gender, race, class, and religion. These new and innovative essays provide a template for re-thinking race in a ‘postcolonial’, decolonial, and ever increasing global context. In articulating new frameworks for thinking about race and multiraciality this work challenges readers to contemplate whether we should strive for a ‘post-racist’ rather than a ‘post-racial’ society. Obama and the Biracial Factor speaks to a wide array of academic disciplines ranging from political science and public policy to sociology and ethnic studies. Scholars, researchers, undergraduate and graduate students as well as community organizers and general audiences interested in issues of equity, social justice, cross-cultural coalitions and political reform will gain new insights into critical mixed race theory and social class in multiracial contexts and beyond.

Contents

  • Part I
    • Obama and the biracial factor: An introduction – Andrew Jolivette
    • Race, multiraciality, and the election of Barack Obama: Toward a more perfect union? – G. Reginald Daniel
    • “A Patchwork Heritage” Multiracial citation in Barack Obama’s Dreams from My FatherJustin Ponder
    • Racial revisionism, caste revisited: Whiteness, blackness and Barack Obama – Darryl G. Barthé, Jr.
  • Part II: Beyond black and white identity politics
  • Part III: The battle for a new American majority
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Obama & The Biracial Factor Book Release & Roundtable Discussion

Posted in Barack Obama, Forthcoming Media, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-03-06 18:25Z by Steven

Obama & The Biracial Factor Book Release & Roundtable Discussion

Richard Oakes Multicultu​ral Center-SF State Student Center
1650 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, California
2012-04-05, 16:00-18:00 PDT (Local Time)

Join book contributors, Dr. Robert Collins, Dr. Wei Ming Dariotis, Dr. Grace Yoo, Dr. Andrew Jolivétte and Cesar Chavez Research Institute Director, Dr. Belinda Reyes in a lively conversation about the 2012 Presidential election campaign and the new book, Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority.

Books will be available at the event.

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Emerging Voices in Academia: Critical Mixed Race Theory

Posted in Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2011-09-06 03:01Z by Steven

Emerging Voices in Academia: Critical Mixed Race Theory

Little Theater, Building 1200
Nappa Vally College
Napa, California
2011-09-22, 16:00 PDT (Local Time)

Andrew Jolivétte, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies (Also see biographies at Speak Out! and Native Wiki.)
Center for Health Disparities Research and Training
San Fransisco State University

Dr. Andrew Jolivétte is an accomplished educator, writer, speaker, and social/cultural critic. His work spans many different social and political arenas – from education reform and LGBT/Queer community of color identity issues to mixed-race identity, critical whiteness studies, gay marriage, and AIDS disparities among people of color. Jolivétte is currently an assistant professor in the American Indian Studies Department and also teaches in the Ethnic Studies Program at San Francisco State University. He recently completed a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship through the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Jolivétte is a mixed-race studies specialist with a particular interest in Comparative Race Relations, Creole studies, Black-Indians, critical mixed-race movement building, and mixed-race health disparities. He is the author of, Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority (Policy Press, February 2012), Cultural Representation in Native America (AltaMira Press, July 2006) which is a part of the Contemporary Native American Communities Series and Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed Race Native American Identity (Lexington Books, January 2007).

For more information, click here.

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