The Story Of J.P. Morgan’s ‘Personal Librarian’ — And Why She Chose To Pass As White

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-09-14 14:38Z by Steven

The Story Of J.P. Morgan’s ‘Personal Librarian’ — And Why She Chose To Pass As White

Code Switch
National Public Radio
2021-08-31

Karen Grigsby Bates, Senior Correspondent


Marie Benedict (left) and Victoria Christopher Murray
Phil Atkins

This summer on Code Switch, we’re talking to some of our favorite authors about books that taught us about the different dimensions of freedom. In our last installment, we talked to author Julia Alvarez about her poetry collection The Woman I Kept to Myself and how difficult it can be to share your many selves with the world. Next up, a conversation with authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray on their book The Personal Librarian.

At the turn of the 20th century, financier J.P. Morgan amassed a rich collection of antique objects related to the power of the written word: manuscripts, books, artwork. He did it all with the idea of enjoying his collection privately. But shortly after his death, Morgan’s personal librarian, a woman named Belle da Costa Greene, convinced J.P. Morgan’s son, Jack Morgan, to make the library a gift to New York City.

The Morgan, as it is now known, welcomes thousands of visitors each year — scholars, researchers, tourists and art lovers — to enjoy the collection. What most don’t know is this: For more than four decades, the library’s collections were acquired and curated by a Black woman. Belle da Costa Greene was quietly passing as white in order to work for one of the most powerful men in the United States

Read the story here.

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What Does It Mean To Be Latino? The ‘Light-Skinned Privilege’ Edition

Posted in Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2021-08-21 03:46Z by Steven

What Does It Mean To Be Latino? The ‘Light-Skinned Privilege’ Edition

Code Switch
National Public Radio
2021-07-14

Shereen Marisol Meraji, Co-host/ Senior Producer

Kumari Devarajan, Producer

Leah Donnella, Editor


Maria Hinojosa (left) and Maria Garcia.
Krystal Quiles for NPR

Maria Garcia and Maria Hinojosa are both Mexican American, both mestiza, and both relatively light-skinned. But Maria Hinojosa strongly identifies as a woman of color, whereas Maria Garcia has stopped doing so. So in this episode, we’re asking: How did they arrive at such different places? To find out, listen to our latest installment in this series about what it means to be Latino.

Listen to the story (00:37:15) here.

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Is ‘Race Science’ Making A Comeback?

Posted in Articles, Audio, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2019-07-16 00:43Z by Steven

Is ‘Race Science’ Making A Comeback?

Code Switch: Race and Identity Remixed
National Public Radio
2019-07-10

Shereen Marisol Meraji, Host/Correspondent

Gene Demby, Lead Blogger

Jess Kung, Intern


Angela Saini, author of Superior: The Return of Race Science.
Henrietta Garden

When Angela Saini was 10 years old, her family moved from what she called “a very multicultural area” in East London to the almost exclusively white Southeast London. Suddenly her brown skin stood out, making her a target. She couldn’t avoid the harassment coming from two boys who lived around the corner. One day, they pelted her and her sister with rocks. She remembers one hit her on the head. She remembers bleeding.

There had been racist comments before that, she says, “but that was the first time that someone around my own age had decided to physically hurt me. And it was tough.”

It was also one of the first stories she reported, writing about the incident and reading it out for class. She says that’s what made her a journalist.

Saini is now an award-winning science journalist, often reporting on the intersection of science, race and gender. Her latest book, Superior: The Return of Race Science, tracks the history and ideology of race science up to its current resurgence…

Read the story here. Download the story (00:22:14) here.

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A Family Tree With Roots Deep In Slavery

Posted in Autobiography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-12-03 01:03Z by Steven

A Family Tree With Roots Deep In Slavery

Code Switch: Race and identity, remixed
National Public Radio
2018-11-21

Nabil Ayers

All families have histories.
Man_Half-tube/Getty Images

“Well hello there Nabil!

“I welcome your letter.

“So in the little bit of information you shared with me, I am intrigued.

“I have worked for a number of years, 26 in fact, on my genealogy. It has been a passion and at times an obsession.”

In her initial email to me, Karen surprised me with her excitement and candor — neither of which I was expecting from the woman whom I had gently accused of being the descendant of the man who owned my ancestors…

…My mother, who is white, chose to have me and raise me on her own. My father is black, but because he has never been part of my life, I’ve never held a strong black identity or felt I belonged to any single race. I grew up in very diverse and liberal surroundings where, if anyone asked, I was racially mixed, and that was fine.

I’m often asked the question, “What are you?” Or the less invasive, but still pointed, “Where are you from?” I’ve always described myself as “half black and half white.” It’s a phrase I still use for simplicity…

Read the entire article here.

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Ask Code Switch: ‘Since You’re Black, You Must Be … ‘

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2017-08-26 23:12Z by Steven

Ask Code Switch: ‘Since You’re Black, You Must Be … ‘

Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed
National Public Radio
2017-08-26

Leah Donnella, News Assistant, Code Switch


Code Switch is tackling your trickiest questions about race.
amathers/iStock

Welcome back to Ask Code Switch, a segment where we dissect your trickiest questions about race. This week, we’re tackling one version of a question that we hear all the time: What do you do when people just won’t stop making assumptions about you because of how you look?

Franchesca in San Francisco writes:

I am mixed Filipino and black, but was raised by my Filipino side. Because I identify more with being Filipino, I get offended when people assume that I’m only black or that I’m only into “black things.” For example, they assume that I must be into black men, etc. It makes me feel like I’m being stereotyped based off my appearance (which is racially ambiguous and depends on who is looking at me and their own perceptions or experiences with different ethnicities). How can I avoid being offended and address the situation when I do feel like I am being boxed into a certain category, without making it a huge deal?…

Read the entire article here.

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For Some Americans Of MENA Descent, Checking A Census Box Is Complicated

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-03-11 20:18Z by Steven

For Some Americans Of MENA Descent, Checking A Census Box Is Complicated

Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed
National Public Radio
2017-03-11

Kat Chow


For years, advocates have pushed the Census Bureau for a box for people of Middle Eastern or North African descent. Now, the bureau recommends one. Some worry the data may be misused in surveillance.
Chelsea Beck/NPR

When Atoosa Moinzadeh filled out past census forms, she found herself in a racial identification conundrum. Moinzadeh identifies as Iranian American. But the census forms don’t have a box for Iranian American. The closest she could come to identifying herself the way she wanted was to choose the box for “white,” which had “Middle East” listed as an example.

That wasn’t quite right for her.

“I’ve always identified as not white, and so the expectation to check off ‘white’ on forms has never felt accurate to me,” Moinzadeh said. She has brown skin and grew up in a white neighborhood in a Seattle suburb. Like many other people of Middle Eastern or North African descent, the world did not treat Moinzadeh as white. And so, on past census forms, Moinzadeh would select the box for “other” and write in “Iranian American.”…

Now, after years of advocacy groups pressuring the U.S. Census Bureau to create a separate geographic category for people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent, the bureau is recommending that MENA be added to the 2020 census. That could mean that the approximately 3.7 million Arab-Americans in the U.S. might have their own box to check off.

Collecting accurate demographic information is crucial, especially for ethnic minority communities, since data gleaned from census forms affects funding for services such as voter protections or English as a second language programs in schools, and also is included in research on topics like housing discrimination. And in 2015, when the bureau tested potential new categories, including MENA, it found that people of Middle Eastern or North African descent would check off the MENA box when it was available; when it wasn’t, they’d select white.

But with policies and political rhetoric that are anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim, some worry the MENA census category might be used against the very people it’s supposed to include. “The downside is concerns about misuse of this data and how it could be used by the government in a time of national crisis,” said Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Concerns like these have been around for almost as long…

Read the entire article here.

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Ultimately, the narrative that imagines mixed-race people as a panacea for racism is a flawed one that reinforces ideas around the very existence of race.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-03-09 21:38Z by Steven

Ultimately, the narrative that imagines mixed-race people as a panacea for racism is a flawed one that reinforces ideas around the very existence of race. Instead, we might want to refocus our conversation around how the collective fiction of race is weaponized to limit access to equality and justice for some groups and not others, then maybe we’re onto something.

Alexandros Orphanides, “Why Mixed-Race Americans Will Not Save The Country,” Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed, National Public Radio, March 8, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/03/08/519010491/why-mixed-race-americans-will-not-save-the-country.

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Why Mixed-Race Americans Will Not Save The Country

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2017-03-08 19:32Z by Steven

Why Mixed-Race Americans Will Not Save The Country

Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed
National Public Radio
2017-03-08

Alexandros Orphanides


What do mixed-race Americans mean for the future of racism?
Roberto Westbrook/Getty Images

Americans like to fantasize that a mixed-race future will free them from the clutches of racism.

But this illusion is incompatible with an America in which the presidential election was won by the candidate who ran a “Make America Great Again” campaign, which many critics have pointed out was widely heard as a call to “Make America White Again.”

If the election results are a vindication for those championing the politics of President Trump, the demographic trends point in the opposite direction. Today, the United States’ mixed-race population is growing three times faster than the general population, and optimism about the impact that mixed-race people can have on a racially-divided country abounds.

What Biracial People Know,” a recent op-ed in The New York Times, argues that the growing multiracial population may act as a “vaccine” to the bigotry that buoyed Trump’s campaign, granting America “immunity” to the longstanding politics of exclusion shaped by racism.

But this hope that a mixed-race future will result in a paradise of interracial and ethnically-ambiguous babies is misleading. It presents racism as passive — a vestigial reflex that will fade with the presence of interracial offspring, rather than as an active system that can change with time. A 2015 study by Pew Research Center concluded that mixed-race Americans describe experiences of discrimination in the form of slurs, poor customer service, and police encounters. These figures were highest among people of black-white and black-Native American descent…

Read the entire article here.

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Why Rachel Dolezal Can Never Be Black

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-07 03:33Z by Steven

Why Rachel Dolezal Can Never Be Black

Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed
National Public Radio
2017-03-03

Denene Millner


Rachel Dolezal stepped down from her post as the leader of the Spokane, Wash., chapter of the NAACP in 2015 amid criticism that she was passing herself off as black.
Nicholas K. Geranios/AP

Rachel Dolezal just won’t let it go.

The white civil rights activist and former NAACP leader outed by her parents in 2015 for passing herself off as black is making the rounds with news that she is living on food stamps, a month away from homelessness, can’t find a job and, perhaps most shockingly, has legally changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo.

News of Dolezal’s precarious living conditions and new name — Nkechi is the Igbo word for “gift of God,” with roots in Nigeria, and Diallo means “bold” in Fulani, a word that can be traced to both Guinea and Senegal — comes, not surprisingly, just weeks before her new memoir, In Full Color, heads to bookstores…

Read the entire article here.

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Will Racism End When Old Bigots Die?

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2017-01-16 17:54Z by Steven

Will Racism End When Old Bigots Die?

Code Switch: Race And Identity, Remixed
National Public Radio
2017-01-14

Leah Donnella

Shelly Fields is a 46-year-old white woman living in Richton Park, a racially diverse Chicago suburb. She says she’s raised her four daughters, who are biracial, to see people of all races as equal, just as her parents raised her. Fields doesn’t think that racism will ever disappear completely, but she’s hopeful that it lessens with each passing generation.

“The more biracial children there are, the more equality we see,” Fields said. “The more people of color we see in positions of power – it will help to change the way people see race.”

Her oldest daughter, Summer, is a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Chicago. When she was in high school, Summer probably would have agreed that race relations were looking up. The ’90s and early 2000s were “a post-racial fantasy time” in Richton Park, Summer said. “Being firmly in the middle of the Obama era – it [was] a moment of progress. It was validating.”

Now, as the Obama era ends, she is of the mind that racism isn’t going anywhere.

“Racism always evolves, and will find a way,” Summer said.

The question that Shelly and Summer are tackling has been posed in many forms for many generations. Will racism just die off with old bigots? Does the fate of race relations lie with the children?…

…They’ve argued over things like trigger warnings and safe spaces (her mom says that’s not how the real world works) and about how to self-identify. Summer thought of herself as biracial until she went to college. When she started referring to herself as a black woman, that became another point of contention.

“My mom doesn’t understand,” she said. “She feels like that’s an affront to her.”…

Read the entire article here.

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