Biologically, We Are All Far More Alike Than Different

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2019-06-06 14:59Z by Steven

Biologically, We Are All Far More Alike Than Different

Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press
Boston, Massachusetts
2019-06-04

Christian Coleman, Associate Digital Marketing Manager

A Q&A with Angela Saini

Why are we seeing a resurgence of race science in the twenty-first century? Weren’t we supposed to be over this after World War II? The notion of “race” has been debunked in the world of science and is understood to be a social construct, but the idea of research-based racial differences is still with us—and has been with us since The Enlightenment. Science journalist Angela Saini tells this disturbing history in Superior: The Return of Race Science. Our blog editor Christian Coleman caught up with her to ask her about her book, the inspiration for it, and how to recognize the subtle signs of race science today.

Christian Coleman: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind writing Superior.

Angela Saini: For me, this is a book that has been bubbling since I was a child. I became a journalist in the first place because I became involved in antiracism movements at university while studying Engineering. But the time for this book was now, with the rise of the far-right and ethnic nationalism around the world. I wanted to put the rise of intellectual racism in historical and scientific context…

CC: What are some subtle examples of how we buy into the belief of biological racial differences today?

AS: I think it happens most clearly in medicine and DNA ancestry testing. When doctors tell us that certain groups are more susceptible to certain illnesses, without making clear that this may sometimes just be for cultural or socioeconomic reasons, it suggests we are biologically different. When firms say they can tell us where we are from by analysing our spit, without explaining how they do this or what it actually means, they also reinforce the idea of biological race…

Read the entire interview here.

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I know what it is to assimilate to a group you identify with, because I did it myself, against my white mother’s wishes. She hated me calling myself black.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-05-18 18:26Z by Steven

For some of us, racial identity is elastic. We can pass. For white, for black, for Middle Eastern. For Latinx. I am one of those people. I know what it is to assimilate to a group you identify with, because I did it myself, against my white mother’s wishes. She hated me calling myself black.

Lisa Page, “Passing or Transracial?: Authority, Race, and Sex in the Rachel Dolezal Documentary,” Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press, May 10, 2018. http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2018/05/passing-or-transracial-authority-race-and-sex-in-the-rachel-dolezal-documentary.html.

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Passing or Transracial?: Authority, Race, and Sex in the Rachel Dolezal Documentary

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-05-18 15:32Z by Steven

Passing or Transracial?: Authority, Race, and Sex in the Rachel Dolezal Documentary

Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press
2018-05-10

Lisa Page, Assistant Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Rachel Dolezal
Photo credit: YouTube/Dr. Phil

For some of us, racial identity is elastic. We can pass. For white, for black, for Middle Eastern. For Latinx. I am one of those people. I know what it is to assimilate to a group you identify with, because I did it myself, against my white mother’s wishes. She hated me calling myself black.

For this reason, my response to The Rachel Divide, Laura Brownson’s new documentary about Rachel Dolezal, is complicated. Dolezal famously passed for black, for years, before her white parents outed her in 2015. I feel two ways about this. I completely get the outrage that followed the reveal. But I also have sympathy for Dolezal. I know what it’s like to turn your back on the white side of your family.

The film opens with clips of Dolezal’s activism, as president of the Spokane NAACP, which came to a screeching halt once she was revealed to be a white woman who darkened her complexion and wore a weave.

Dolezal doesn’t call that passing.

“Who’s the gatekeeper for blackness?” she asks, near the beginning of the film. “Do we have the right to live exactly how we feel?”…

Read the entire article here.

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Why Do People Pass?: The Complex Journeys of Belonging and Identity in America

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-27 03:13Z by Steven

Why Do People Pass?: The Complex Journeys of Belonging and Identity in America

Beacon Broadside
2017-11-07

Brando Skyhorse, Associate Professor of English
Indiana University, Bloomington

Lisa Page, Acting Director of Creative Writing
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.


Image credit: Bob Kosturko

America has a long and complicated history of passing. We’re familiar with the stories of African Americans who passed as white in the past in order to improve their social mobility. Nowadays, we are hearing a variety of personal experiences about passing that transcends additional modes of identity—class, religion, gender, sexuality, and more. Writers Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page have brought together some of these stories in their new essay anthology We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America. As they point out in the introduction of the book, excerpted below, there have always been many ways in which people pass, and many reasons to do so.

In June 2015 a surprising number of Americans stopped to gawk at a thirty-seven-year-old “African American” woman named Rachel Dolezal who, after an almost decade-long act, was outed by her parents as a white woman who chose to pass as black. The national response, culminating in a Today Show appearance, was extreme. Some were outraged by her deception, while others drew parallels between her right to live her “truth” the same way Caitlyn Jenner embodies hers.

Rachel—or “#BlackRachel” as she trended online—never once “broke character.”

Later that month, the Daily Beast reported on Andrea Smith, an Anglo woman and esteemed professor of Native American studies at the University of California, Riverside, who presented as Cherokee for over twenty years. She had a long history of American Indian activism and published articles and books purporting to speak on Indian issues as an American Indian despite not a trace of Indian ancestry being found after two rounds of genealogical research.

If you’re looking for historical precedent, how about jazz clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow? A middle-class Jewish kid from Chicago, he married a black woman, moved to Harlem, self-identified in the 1940s as a “white Negro” and was listed by his draft board as “Negro.” His understanding of being a black American was an odd brew of sincere cultural musical appreciation and promoting the oversimplified “shuck and jive” stereotypes. Go back further and you’ll find Clarence King, a nineteenth-century blue-eyed white scientist and best-selling author who thrilled in “slumming.” For thirteen years, King passed as a black Pullman porter, complete with a black common-law wife and five mixed-race children.

American history is filled with innumerable examples like these. Why, then, did “#BlackRachel” fascinate and outrage so many of us? The answer lies in the complex phenomenon of passing…

Read the entire article here.

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The Lovings dared to cross the color line, and their story reveals why that color line was constructed. In fact, the Loving decision was the first and only time the Court ever used the potent words ‘White Supremacy’ (in caps) to name such ideology.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-12-19 01:12Z by Steven

“I’ve been describing Sheryll Cashin’s next book partly as a history of white supremacy in America,” says Cashin’s editor, Joanna Green. “Cashin powerfully illustrates how white supremacy was and is foundational to US capitalism and expansion; thus, segregation proves to be an essential tactic. The Lovings dared to cross the color line, and their story reveals why that color line was constructed. In fact, the Loving decision was the first and only time the Court ever used the potent words ‘White Supremacy’ (in caps) to name such ideology. It’s surprising that so few people are aware of this case.”

Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, “Beacon Goes to the Movies: “Loving” and the History of White Supremacy,” Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press, December 15, 2016. http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2016/12/beacon-goes-to-the-movies-loving-and-the-history-of-white-supremacy.html.

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Beacon Goes to the Movies: “Loving” and the History of White Supremacy

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2016-12-17 22:55Z by Steven

Beacon Goes to the Movies: “Loving” and the History of White Supremacy

Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press
2016-12-15

Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, Editorial Assistant

When publicity assistant Perpetua Charles and senior editor Joanna Green first began planning a staff trip to see the film Loving in celebration of Beacon’s forthcoming book on the same topic five months ago, they couldn’t have known for sure what our political environment would be as they and fellow members of the Beacon Press staff walked through a rainy November night to the theater. Exactly a week after the country watched the electoral votes tally in favor of a divisive Republican presidential candidate, we came together to view a retelling of how Mildred and Richard Loving, a young interracial couple from Virginia, helped end the ban on interracial marriage in the United States.

“Biopics like this leave you with an overwhelming sense of hope, right? Making you think that as soon as the anti-miscegenation laws were overturned, every interracial couple was getting married left and right and naysayers kept their mouths shut. But that’s surely not what happened,” Perpetua said, going into the film.

From reading an early copy of Sheryll Cashin’s upcoming book, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy, I gradually came to the understanding that the story this film set out to tell feels big because it is big. Not only is it the story of Richard and Mildred Loving—their love, their decision to formally wed, their beloved hometown of Central Point, Virginia turning against them, their exile to Washington D.C., and the ten years they spent mired in the legal battle that would culminate in the seminal Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision. It is also a four hundred-year-old story of people defying a deeply entrenched and fiercely protected color line to love or marry in America. It is a story that has gone on for as long as this country has existed, and as this election has confirmed, is nowhere near over…

Read the entire review here.

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In the world we’ve got, it’s the Black ancestor that sets the identity, because that’s still the racial fault line in America.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-10-21 01:35Z by Steven

The “mixed race” community—powered to a significant (embarrassing?) extent by white mothers of kids who are not white—seeks a unique “mixed” identity, and Obama could be a poster child. But I don’t think we need poster children for mixed identity: we need a world in which a Black man can be president, no matter who his mother is. In such a world, “mixed” wouldn’t matter politically—we could still have our cultural identities, as many as we want, actually, us Americans with our occasional Cherokee grandmother, French great grandfather, Italian immigrant great, great grandmother, and maybe a couple of Jews and the occasional Black ancestor. Celebrating ethnicity can be fun. But race in America is not about fun or celebration: it’s about power. In the world we’ve got, it’s the Black ancestor that sets the identity, because that’s still the racial fault line in America.

Barbara Katz Rothman, “Obama’s Mixed Heritage: A Mother’s Perspective,” Beacon Broadside, February 14, 2008. http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2008/02/obamas-mixed-he.html.

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Obama’s Mixed Heritage: A Mother’s Perspective

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Family/Parenting, Social Science, United States on 2011-06-19 00:33Z by Steven

Obama’s Mixed Heritage: A Mother’s Perspective

Beacon Broadside
2008-02-14

Barbara Katz Rothman, Professor of Sociology
City University of New York

It’s an interesting historical moment to be a white mother of a Black child, as another white mother’s Black child is running for president of the United States. Who’d have thought?

I too am a white mother of a Black child. When my Black child, Victoria, was in kindergarten or maybe first grade, sitting around the morning meeting at her politically progressive Quaker school, they were talking about how there’d never been a woman president, or a Black president, or a Jewish president. Victoria   piped up: “I could do it; I could be the first of all of them!” Now that she’s older, I think a presidential career is pretty well out for Victoria—the first multi-pierced, Mohawk-wearing, tattooed, electric-bass player president? Probably not. But back when she was in kindergarten, I’d have thought the chances of someone with Obama’s family background becoming president were unimaginably slim.

In case you’ve not seen a news report this year: Obama had an African father and a white American mother—from Kansas, no less, though ultimately her son was raised mostly in Hawaii. Too bad that his mother isn’t here to see this; she died, too young, of ovarian cancer. She did live long enough to see him in the Senate, miracle enough that was! If she was here now, I wonder how she’d be responding to the inevitable media attention: people are blogging about why we’re calling him “Black” rather than “mixed race,”about his “white heritage,”wondering if he is “Black enough,” thinking about his thoroughly unusual and so thoroughly American story…

…The “mixed race” community—powered to a significant (embarrassing?) extent by white mothers of kids who are not white—seeks a unique “mixed” identity, and Obama could be a poster child. But I don’t think we need poster children for mixed identity: we need a world in which a Black man can be president, no matter who his mother is. In such a world, “mixed” wouldn’t matter politically—we could still have our cultural identities, as many as we want, actually, us Americans with our occasional Cherokee grandmother, French great grandfather, Italian immigrant great, great grandmother, and maybe a couple of Jews and the occasional Black ancestor. Celebrating ethnicity can be fun. But race in America is not about fun or celebration: it’s about power. In the world we’ve got, it’s the Black ancestor that sets the identity, because that’s still the racial fault line in America…

Read the entire article here.

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