Freedom and Frustration: Rachel Dolezal and the Meaning of Race

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2019-08-18 22:12Z by Steven

Freedom and Frustration: Rachel Dolezal and the Meaning of Race

Contexts
Volume: 18 issue: 3
pages 36-41
DOI: 10.1177/1536504219864957

Chinyere Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

In the United States, people often discuss how the burgeoning multi-racial population and immigrants from Asia and Latin America are forcing us to call into question what we know about racial and ethnic categories. This argument, however, takes for granted that being Black or White, categories at the poles, are unproblematic distinctions. This perspective essentializes Blackness and Whiteness as commonsense phenomena. They are anything but. The meanings of who is White and who is Black in the United States have shifted over centuries, and who gets slotted into what category changes across societies.

A couple of years ago, the media became fascinated with Rachel Dolezal, a woman born naturally to White parents, who identified as a Black woman. At a time when transgender issues were becoming salient, news media posed what seemed to them an obvious question: is it possible to be born White and become Black the same way it was possible to be born with male sex organs and become female? Although Dolezal never used the term “transracial” to identify herself, she reminded us that race is a social construction, something many people understand as fake and baseless. On these grounds, Dolezal decided that she would wear Black hairstyles, spend time in Black communities, date and marry Black men, lead a chapter of a historically Black organization, and supposedly leave Whiteness behind. This infuriated many people, especially African Americans.

When Rachel Dolezal made international news, my friends in Brazil did not understand the commotion. “What’s going on? Who is this woman?” they asked.

I understood some of their confusion…

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Chinyere K. Osuji

Posted in Anthropology, Audio, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-07-12 12:09Z by Steven

Chinyere K. Osuji

New Books Network
2019-07-11

Reighan Gillam, Host and Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Southern California

Chinyere K. Osuji, Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race (New York: New York University Press, 2019)

The increasing presence of interracial relationships is often read as an antidote to racism or as an indicator of the decreasing significance of race. In her book, Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race (NYU Press, 2019), Chinyere K. Osuji examines how interracial couples push against, navigate, and often maintain racial boundaries. In-depth interviews with black-white couples in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Los Angeles demonstrate how couples negotiate racial difference with their spouses, within their families, and during public encounters. This comparative study of interracial couples in Brazil and in the United States shows just how race can be constructed differently, while racial hierarchies persist. This book would be of interest to those in fields such as racial and ethnic studies, family and kinship studies, gender studies, and Latin American studies.

Listen to the interview (00:52:56) here. Download the interview here.

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Being More ‘Open:’ Black Women Negotiate Dating and Marrying White Men

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Women on 2019-07-11 17:23Z by Steven

Being More ‘Open:’ Black Women Negotiate Dating and Marrying White Men

Chinyere Osuji, PhD
2019-07-10

Chinyere K. Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

When I was studying at Harvard in the early 2000s, I had a black professor who had built part of his career gas-lighting anti-black discrimination in favor of 1990s-style black cultural inferiority tropes. My grad school girlfriends and I awkwardly giggled over “the sex parts” of his book on black upward mobility. He cited statistics saying that black women did not perform oral sex as often as white women, making them less desirable sexual partners. Sexual incompatibility on this sex act was part of the motor driving black men to date interracially more than black women. I was struck by how he ignored scholarship showing how white women are lauded as the essence of beauty, domesticity, and ideal womanhood. Instead, in a reversal of the Jezebel stereotype, he explained this race-gender imbalance as due to black women being prudes. I remember that when we stopped laughing, we speculated on which black woman might have hurt him and whether this was scholarly revenge porn against black women. We also questioned how his much paler wife felt about this discussion.

Over a decade later, I noticed the increasing popularity of a similar dynamic: “Black women need to be more open!”

How many black women have heard this in reference to our dating and marriage prospects?…

…In my book, Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race, I conducted over 100 interviews with people in black-white couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro. I had the privilege of listening to men and women across racial pairings share the monotony, excitement, struggles, and joys of being married to a person on the other side of the ethnoracial hierarchy. Almost all couples seemed content in their relationships. Several were parents navigating how to raise children who were comfortable with the black, white, multiracial, and multi-ethnic sides of their extended families.

One thing that struck me about the black women whom I interviewed was how several of them complained about their white husbands who “just didn’t get it.” As people on the top of gender, racial, and often class hierarchies, these white men often could not make sense of the privileges they accrued in a society that fought very hard to occlude them. The work often fell on their black wives to teach them how they navigated the world as white middle class men. A few white husbands were “woke” to these dynamics. When I interviewed them individually, we laughed about their couple tactic of wives “tagging” them for interactions with customer service representatives and other outsiders. This strategy ensured that they used their race and gender privileges for the good of the family. Still, black women in other relationships described the emotional labor of explaining intersections of disadvantage to their oblivious white husbands…

Read the entire article here.

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Sociologist’s Book Highlights Experiences of Interracial Couples and the Meanings They Give to Race and Ethnicity

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-06-11 00:16Z by Steven

Sociologist’s Book Highlights Experiences of Interracial Couples and the Meanings They Give to Race and Ethnicity

Rutgers-Camden News Now
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
2019-06-10

Tom McLaughlin, Media Relations Specialist


Throughout her book, Osuji uses her findings to challenge the notion that society should rely on interracial couples and their multiracial children to end racism.

While people in American society often talk about race mixture as an antidote to the country’s racial problems, interracial couples remain stigmatized, according to a new book by a Rutgers University–Camden sociologist.

“The idea is that, the more people who are interracially marrying, then we will have more multiracial children and magically there won’t be racial inequality or racism anymore,” says Chinyere Osuji, an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University–Camden.

That’s not the case, says the Rutgers–Camden researcher.

According to Osuji, looking at interracial couples in Brazil – a country historically known for its racial diversity – shows how racism can coexist with race mixture. She explains that, although the country does have a substantial multiracial population, interracial couples are very much still stigmatized and race mixing is segregated by class – more likely to occur “in poor communities, where brown and black people live.”

These are just a few of the illuminating findings in Osjui’s groundbreaking new book, Boundaries of Love: Interracial Love and the Meaning of Race (NYU Press, 2019)…

Read the entire article here.

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Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2019-05-01 22:08Z by Steven

Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race

New York University Press
May 2019
320 pages
16 black and white illustrations
152.40 x 228.60 mm
Cloth ISBN: 9781479878611
Paper ISBN: 9781479831456

Chinyere K. Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

How interracial couples in Brazil and the US navigate racial boundaries

How do people understand and navigate being married to a person of a different race? Based on individual interviews with forty-seven black-white couples in two large, multicultural cities—Los Angeles and Rio de JaneiroBoundaries of Love explores how partners in these relationships ultimately reproduce, negotiate, and challenge the “us” versus “them” mentality of ethno-racial boundaries.

By centering marriage, Chinyere Osuji reveals the family as a primary site for understanding the social construction of race. She challenges the naive but widespread belief that interracial couples and their children provide an antidote to racism in the twenty-first century, instead highlighting the complexities and contradictions of these relationships. Featuring black husbands with white wives as well as black wives with white husbands, Boundaries of Love sheds light on the role of gender in navigating life married to a person of a different color.

Osuji compares black-white couples in Brazil and the United States, the two most populous post–slavery societies in the Western hemisphere. These settings, she argues, reveal the impact of contemporary race mixture on racial hierarchies and racial ideologies, both old and new.

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Leitner Human Rights Speaker Series: Chinyere Osuji, Rutgers University – cosponsored with the Center on Race, Law and Justice – Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race in Brazil and the United States

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-04-08 19:04Z by Steven

Leitner Human Rights Speaker Series: Chinyere Osuji, Rutgers University – cosponsored with the Center on Race, Law and Justice – Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race in Brazil and the United States

Leitner Center for International Law and Justice
Fordham Law School
150 West 62nd Street
Room 3-09
New York, New York 10023
2019-04-09, 12:30-13:30 EDT (Local Time)
Contact: leitnercenter@law.fordham.edu

Chinyere Osuji is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University with affiliations in Africana Studies and Latin American and Latino studies. Before coming to Rutgers-Camden, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Africana Studies.

Chinyere conducts research on the meaning that social actors give to racial and ethnic boundaries. Her first book, Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race (April 2019, NYU Press) takes a novel approach to comparing race and ethnicity across societies by examining the experiences of interracial couples. Boundaries of Love relies on 103 qualitative interviews that she conducted with 52 black-white couples between 2008 and 2012 in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro (in Portuguese). Through using what she calls a critical constructionist approach, Boundaries of Love compares the experiences of couples involving black men and white women with those of black women with white men in these two diverse, multicultural settings. This book reveals how non-elites in these two post-Atlantic slavery societies employ cultural repertoires that push against, bridge over, blur, dismantle or reproduce ethnoracial boundaries.

Chinyere’s next project will employ the critical constructionist approach to nursing and healthcare. In addition, she will be examining the lives of African immigrants, focusing on how they form community without being spatially concentrated.

For more information, click here.

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On Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Interracial Couples and Their Multiracial Children Will Not Save Us

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-05-18 18:54Z by Steven

On Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Interracial Couples and Their Multiracial Children Will Not Save Us

Chinyere Osuji
2018-05-18

Chinyere Osuji, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (Camden)

This weekend, people all around the world will be tuning in to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, an American actress. With a black mother and a white father, Markle identifies as biracial and will be one of the first Americans to marry into the British Royal family. To the chagrin of some, British royal weddings are a big deal in its former colonies, the United States included. But this is a major exception. Black women have been excluded from Western princess imagery until recently with the Disney Princess Tianna, who spent most of the movie as an animal. Yet, with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, for the first time in living memory, an Afrodescendant woman will be the star who ends the movie as a princess in a real life royal wedding.

Last year was not only the year that Prince Harry proposed to Markle, it also marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision outlawing state anti-miscegenation laws. To celebrate interracial love, The New York Times ran an editorial titled “How Interracial Love Is Saving America” by Sheryll Cashin. The author cited research by the Pew Research Center on how 17% of newlyweds and 20% of cohabiting relationships are either interracial or interethnic, many times higher than in 1967. Cashin saw the enlightened whites who had married across color lines as being at the forefront of a New Reconstruction in the Trump Era. Many people think that as an important symbol of racial harmony, Prince Harry and Ms. Markle will change the world. Like these U.S. newlyweds, their love will be the acid melting the boundaries separating blacks and whites.

Unfortunately, it is not true…

Read the entire article here.

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As a white supremacist society, the United States privileges Dolezal’s challenging ethnoracial boundaries.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-05-28 21:14Z by Steven

As a white supremacist society, the United States privileges [Rachel] Dolezal’s challenging ethnoracial boundaries. This is so unlike the thousands of blacks who quietly dissolved into the white population a century ago. A media stir would have cost them their lives. Even Anatole Broyard, the New York Times film critic who passed away in 1990 took his hidden blackness to the grave to be taken seriously in his career as a writer. At the same time, unlike the acceptance that many Afro-Brazilians have for their negra frustradas, many Afro-Americans find her problematic at best. Their relatives and ancestors who passed as white (or do so now) do not receive the same rewards. Instead, it has to be quiet without any fuss, for fear of upsetting the status quo.

Chinyere Osuji, Ph.D., “Rachel Dolezal: ‘Negra Frustrada’ (Frustrated Black Woman),” Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, May 24, 2017. http://chinyereosuji.camden.rutgers.edu/2017/05/24/rachel-dolezal-negra-frustrada-frustrated-black-woman/.

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Rachel Dolezal: ‘Negra Frustrada’ (Frustrated Black Woman)

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2017-05-25 01:25Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal: ‘Negra Frustrada’ (Frustrated Black Woman)

Chinyere Osuji
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
2017-05-24

Chinyere Osuji, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers University, Camden


Rachel Dolezal

Race is a social construction. We have heard that phrase over and over again to the point that it has become a bit hackneyed. When I teach my sociology students, I tell them, “Sociologists study what people do together: we create families, schools, economic systems.” All of these things are social constructions that are produced, reproduced, and even demolished because people together make it so.

And then Rachel Dolezal comes along…

Read the entire article here.

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279. Invited Thematic Session: Crossing Interracial Borders

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Live Events, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2015-02-27 01:35Z by Steven

279. Invited Thematic Session: Crossing Interracial Borders

Crossing Borders: 2015 Annual Meeting
Eastern Sociological Society
Millennium Broadway Hotel
New York, New York
2015-02-26 through 2015-03-01

Saturday, 2015-02-28, 12:00-13:30 EST (Local Time)

Organizer: Erica Chito-Childs, City University of New York – Hunter College

Presider: Erica Chito-Childs, City University of New York – Hunter College

  • Transracial Kin-scription: The Silent Engine of Racial Change? Kimberly McClain DaCosta — New York University
  • Emerging Patterns of Interracial Marriage and Immigrant Integration in the United States Daniel Lichter — Cornell University
  • Interracial Marriage in the U.S. and Brazil: Racial Boundaries in Comparative Perspective Chinyere Osuji — Rutgers University
  • A Global Look at Attitudes Towards “Mixed” Marriage Erica Chito-Childs — City University of New York – Hunter College

Discussant: Amy Steinbugler, Dickinson College

For more information, click here.

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