After Trump

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Philosophy, Religion, United States, Virginia on 2017-03-16 20:04Z by Steven

After Trump

Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum
2016-11-22

Christopher Petrella, Lecturer in the Humanities and the Associate Director of Equity and Diversity
Bates College, Lewiston, Maine

In November 2015 Donald Trump was asked on the campaign trail if he would require Muslim U.S. citizens to register with the Department of Homeland Security. “Absolutely,” Trump said, “they have to be.” Trump and his team had been mum on the issue until last week when a number of prominent surrogates and advisers—including incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump’s immigration adviser Kris Kobach—mused, seemingly as a test balloon, that the administration is “not going to rule out anything” and that a registry of Muslims entering the country would pass constitutional muster. One member of Trump’s team went as far as citing the 1942–45 internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II as a “precedent.” (Both statements were hedged with qualifications that made them no less worrisome.)

Since then, many commentators have roundly condemned the idea of a Muslim registry—not to mention citing the internment of Japanese-Americans as a precedent for anything except that which we must avoid repeating. Few have offered deeper historical examinations , though, that would suggest that the registration of Japanese-Americans and their subsequent movement to concentration camps were not really aberrations in American history. On the contrary, racial and ethnic registries and immigration quota systems have long been integral to America’s approach to regulating the freedom, movement, and rights of non-whites. Two pieces of legislation passed in the same year nearly a century ago—one federal, one in the state of Virginia—reflect the recurrent appeal in the United States of laws aimed at protecting the racial purity of whatever is indexed in a given moment as best representing American nationalism…

…In the same year as the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, the Commonwealth of Virginia passed its Racial Integrity Act, originally drafted as “A Bill for the Preservation of the White Race.” The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 explicitly forbade miscegenation—that is, “race mixing through marriage and fornication”—on the basis that such practices would “pollute [the nation] with mixed-blood offspring.”…

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I told my reflection, with the impossible hubris of a child, that white boy will never be me. I wasn’t, I decided in the basement of our rented duplex on Dwight Drive in Madison, going to be made to live THAT lie.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-04-01 21:02Z by Steven

I told my reflection, with the impossible hubris of a child, That white boy will never be me. I wasn’t, I decided in the basement of our rented duplex on Dwight Drive in Madison, going to be made to live that lie. I would decide what and who was important to me and become who and whatever that entailed. Call it pride. That decision was startlingly clear to me then. Comprehension of the complex forces that compelled that confrontation lay, however, beyond me, far ahead. I was a child; I had no idea what it would mean to me and those who would come into contact with me over the decades. Soon I’d begin to learn about that; I’m still learning.

Ed Pavlić, ““We Called That Touch”,” Boston Review, March 28, 2016. https://bostonreview.net/us/ed-pavlic-we-called-that-touch-race-american-experience.

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“We Called That Touch”

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-04-01 02:06Z by Steven

“We Called That Touch”

Boston Review
2016-03-28

Ed Pavlić, Professor of English and Creative Writing
University of Georgia

Race and the Intimate Tangle of American Experience

It might seem to you that I am white. Then again, depending upon how and where we meet—and upon things in your life I know nothing about—it might seem to you that I’m not white. So far, in forty-nine years here, my experience has indicated this much to me. My father came to the United States by way of Canada from what is now Croatia. My mother is a white American liberal from Wisconsin. Many in America would say that, because of the race of my parents, my identity is essentially fixed in those terms, that such matters are innate, inborn. For many on all sides of the color line, this either/or racial paradigm possesses the self-evidence of a law of nature. Yet the social and political machinery necessary to maintain the reality of this illusion proves lethal to men, women, and children everyday.

Nonetheless, contrary to this culture-bound delusion, whiteness is not a natural inheritance. People “believing themselves white” (to borrow a phrase from Ta-Nehisi Coates, who borrowed the idea from James Baldwin) must invest in that belief continually. Whether consciously or not, they must rehearse its prohibitions and privileges all their waking days—in their dreams, even. Our world offers them a great assistance with this and, on average, the dividends paid by this pact with whiteness are real. At the same time, Eula Biss recently argued that this “believing themselves white” business accrues a cost, “White Debt.” It seems to me that she is describing shame even more than debt. Her essay tiptoes around naming the terrible price people believing themselves white pay to sustain that belief.

I confess that, even in the abstract, I have never been able to acquire a knack for honoring the supposed impermeability of American racial categories. Just where is the border in what one says, thinks, imagines, who one loves? Even more, where is the border in how one goes about these things? My racial ambiguity has not only been internal but has been reflected in—perhaps fueled by—the ways that, since childhood, my race has been so frequently “misread,” or far from self-evident. More than once in my twenties, police asked me point blank: Are you black or white? In these previews of often subtler interrogations to come, it always seemed to me that the question was the answer. Yet for years and long after I knew better, and even up until now, I have been afraid to openly analyze the dynamics that have produced these questions. I dealt with them lyrically, both in poems and in life. But in a fearful and tiresome symmetry, this silence and lyrical angularity (like Dickinson’stell it slant”) also forced me to treat my condition as if it were a personal psychosis, mine and mine alone, an essential and incommunicable privacy. It’s taught me how necessary privacy is but also how an incommunicable privacy narrows, collapses, becomes a trap…

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I Can’t Breathe

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Justice on 2016-03-23 20:53Z by Steven

I Can’t Breathe

Boston Review
2016-03-21

Anne Fausto-Sterling, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor Emerita of Biology and Gender Studies
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Race in Medical School Curricula

In the fall of 2015, U.S. college students ignited in protest about campus and national racism. Chanting “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”—recalling the final cries and acts of unarmed African Americans who died at the hands of police—the scholar-activists joined the Black Lives Matter movement that has burgeoned since the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and many others. At my home base, Brown University, school officials responded by drafting a detailed action plan and inviting community comment, a process that is ongoing. While the plan pays attention to student demands for more diversity in the faculty and the student body, as well as improvements in campus climate, it fails to address the need to reevaluate and revise the curriculum in both undergraduate and professional schools—particularly with regard to what we do and do not teach about race, to how both silence and subtly coded messages continue to transmit racial bias.

Integrating studies of race, ethnicity, class, and gender into the curriculum is not easy. And it does not suffice to develop specialized elective courses, such as the one I offered more than twenty-five years ago—Women and Minorities in Science. Such courses exemplify what we, in the early days of women’s studies, used to refer to derisively as “just add women and stir.” The “stir” approach addresses problems of representation but does not challenge underlying theories of disciplinary knowledge.

Biology courses should not be able to get by, for example, with only mentioning a few famous scientists of color and then returning to business as usual. To properly address race, courses need to present the still-disputed science behind concepts of race and genetics, or examine how Darwin’s racial views led him to develop the idea of sexual selection, or teach about the genetics of skin pigmentation and convergent evolution of human phenotypes. Change that matters can only come from altering the content and pedagogy of mainstream courses for generations to come…

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Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2013-06-26 20:08Z by Steven

Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry

Boston Review
2013-06-13

Paisley Rekdal, Associate Professor of English
University of Utah

To be a biracial and female writer might suggest one of two things: first, that my gender and race are the subject matter of my work or, second, that the forms of my writing reflect my identity. Between these two possibilities–race and gender as theme versus race and gender as enacted form—a tension exists, perhaps arising from our current distrust of both narrative and identity politics. To write from the first position—race and gender as theme—boils a poem down to the recounting of experience, most likely the narrator’s marginalization. It is an easy poetry to identify, and it is a type whose detractors (rightfully and wrongly) criticize as an attempt to engender in the reader both sympathy with and catharsis through the personal revelations of the narrator. It is a poetry that at its worst risks becoming performative cultural “kitsch” through its manipulation of readers’ sensitivities to race and racism but, at its best, illuminates some part of the complexity currently surrounding ideas of racial authenticity and identification.

The second option—identity as enacted form—is harder to pinpoint, relying as it does as much on the writer’s stated objectives for the work, as on readers’ stereotypes about what kind of poetic form female biracialism could take. On the surface, we might expect “biracial” forms to be highly skeptical of an imaginatively coherent first person. They could be poems that rely on fragmentation, that are deeply engaged with critical theory regarding perception and language. They could be ironic, self-reflexive, suspicious of catharsis, engaged more with the playful destruction of archetypal myths of identity than in reifying them. In short, they would be hard to distinguish from much of contemporary poetry today…

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Can Losing Your Job Make You Black?

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-06 20:05Z by Steven

Can Losing Your Job Make You Black?

Boston Review
2013-06-03

Aliya Saperstein, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Stanford University

Most Americans think a person’s race is fairly obvious and unchanging; we know it the minute we meet him or her. Similarly, most academic research also treats race as fixed and foreordained. A person’s race comes first and then his or her experiences, education, job, neighborhood, income, and well-being follow. My research with sociologist Andrew Penner on how survey respondents were classified by race over the course of their lives, calls into question this seemingly obvious “fact.”

The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth has been following a group of about 12,000 Americans since they were teenagers and young adults in 1979. From 1979 to 1998, the survey interviewers had to identify the race of the people they interviewed, even when those people had been repeatedly interviewed. At the end of each session, interviewers recorded whether they thought a respondent was “Black,” “White,” or “Other.” Here is the surprise: nearly 20 percent of respondents experienced at least one change in their recorded race over those 19 years.

These changes were not random, as one might expect if the interviewers were just hurrying to finish up or if the data-entry clerks were making mistakes. The racial classifications changed systematically, in response to what had happened to the respondent since the previous interview…

Read the entire article here.

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Bodies with Histories: The New Search for the Biology of Race

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Politics/Public Policy on 2012-06-15 02:02Z by Steven

Bodies with Histories: The New Search for the Biology of Race

Boston Review
May/June 2012

Anne Fausto-Sterling
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Biochemistry, Program in Women’s Studies, and Chair of the Faculty Committee on Science and Technology Studies
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Richard C. Francis, Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance. W. W. Norton, $25.95 (cloth)

Ann Morning, The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference. University of California Press, $26.95 (paper)

Dorothy Roberts, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century. New Press, $29.95 (cloth)

Have you heard this one? A sociologist, a lawyer, and a biologist walk into a bar, scoot their stools up to the counter, order drinks, and begin to chat. Suddenly, a booming voice (God, the bartender?) envelops them. “What is the meaning of race?” the voice asks.

While the question may seem straightforward on its face, it quickly spawns further questions, often vexing. Is race purely a political construct, or is it biologically encoded? Certainly there are aspects of human biology—skin color, hair color, the presence or absence of epicanthic folds, etc.—that are commonly associated with racial differences, but is race just the sum of these physical features, with all of the overlaps, exceptions, and ambiguities they involve? How do genes factor into the story? And what connection—if any—is there between biological markers of race and the social experiences of racial groups?

Each of the three drinking buddies has a lot to say to God or Sam Malone, and, by the way, their responses don’t end in laugh lines. The biologist, Richard Francis, engages other issues, though his concerns directly affect how we answer the loud voice. But the sociologist, Ann Morning, and the lawyer, Dorothy Roberts, are narrowly focused on the science of race and how medicine mediates racial experience. And with good reason: in the United States people of a darker hue (on average) die sooner than pink-skinned people. They are afflicted with higher rates of particular diseases, such as high blood pressure, strokes, and kidney failure. So the race you’re born with, or, rather, which race you are born into, might mean a healthier, longer life—or not.

These days large numbers of medical research dollars are devoted to finding genetic differences between races that might explain health disparities. But many students of biology and race, and at least some of our bar mates, think that is a bad idea. They are not against medical research per se but against bad research. Instead of looking for genes that cause race and attending health outcomes (the standard approach) they point to evidence strongly suggesting that everyday events alter our bodies, making them sicker or more resistant to disease—events that the political economy ensures are more or less common depending on which racial categories one is assigned to. Indeed, it may be that biology doesn’t create race but that racial marking creates new biological states via processes that all three of these thinkers discuss in new books

Read the entire review here.

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