ITYC Audio Journal #2: What Are You?-Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations

Posted in Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-10-14 16:32Z by Steven

ITYC Audio Journal #2: What Are You?-Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations

Is That Your Child? Thought in Full Color

Michelle McCrary, Host

Last Thursday, I attended an event at the Brooklyn Historical Society for their “Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations” series called What Are You? The panel tackled the this perpetual question often aimed at people who are perceived to be ethnically ambiguous.

Presenting their own encounters/experiences with the “what are you?” question were Angela Tucker, creator of the webseries Black Folk Don’t; Heidi Durrow, author of the New York Times Bestseller The Girl Who Fell from the Sky and co-host of Mixed Chicks Chat; Jen Chau, founder of Swirl, Inc.; Erica Chito Childs, author of Fade to Black and White: Interracial Images in Popular Culture and Ken Tanabe, founder of Loving Day.

Here, in this second installment of ITYC Audio Journal, I share details about the panel discussion and some of my personal thoughts about race, identity and “what are you?”

Download the audio here (00:40:48).

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2nd Annual: What Are You?

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-10-03 23:26Z by Steven

2nd Annual: What Are You?

Brooklyn Historical Society
Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations
2012-10-04, 19:00 EDT (Local Time)

Let’s talk about race and ethnicity, and where we’re from (or where we’re from from); how we express our own multicultural identities, and how others perceive us. Panelists will start the conversation and we hope you’ll join in. We’ll discuss big questions like: How does our cultural background shape us? Can we see race? Is identity fixed or fluid?  #CBBGwhatru


Co-sponsored by Swirl, a multi-ethnic, anti-racist organization that promotes cross-cultural dialogue

For more information, click here.

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New Americans: Rise of the Multiracials: A Documentary

Posted in Census/Demographics, Family/Parenting, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2012-07-28 20:14Z by Steven

New Americans: Rise of the Multiracials: A Documentary

A Work-In-Progress Documentary

Eli Steele, Producer

With more Americans marrying across the color line today than before, it is inevitable that the racial makeup of America’s face will forever change. Of the nine million individuals that identified themselves as multiracial on the 2010 census, more than 50 percent were under 18 years of age, including filmmaker Eli Steele’s two children, Jack and June. By 2050, they and their multiracial peers are expected to account for 25% of the total population.
This fate was long predicted by early Americans such as James Madison and Frederick Douglass who knew the color line could not keep the races apart for eternity. And now that this fate is upon us, what does it mean for a country that has shed so much blood in the name of race?

With this question on his mind, Filmmaker Eli Steele, who is multiracial himself, has embarked on a journey through America to explore various aspects of the American landscape for clues to what the future holds. So far, he has encountered individuals ranging from a U.S. Army soldier who refuses to self identify his race to a radio host who identifies as Black American despite a white mother and black father. Aside from interviews, Steele plans to explore the role of multiracial individuals in key moments in American history, the ongoing demographic shifts that are rapidly redefining once firm racial boundaries, and pockets of resistance to the multiracial baby boom.
Steele also plans to journey into the history of his family for to be multiracial is a fate that is at once deeply personal and political. Why did the ancestors of his children make the decisions to cross the color line, especially at times where there were no societal advantages in doing so? By learning more about the world they came from and the decisions they made, Steele hopes to provide his children with a better understanding of the world and people they come from. 
To date, Steele has discovered there are two Americas at odds with one another. There is the private America of individuals has advanced race relations to the point that 85 percent of 18 to 29 year olds and 73 percent of 30 to 49 year olds would consider marriage to another race. On the other side, there is the public America of government institutions and corporations that continue their race policies despite an obvious absurdity: if an individual is more than one race, then what is race? Will America reconcile its race policies with the irreversible trends of private America or will there always be a disconnect?

The outcome of this new front on the culture war around race will determine whether America continues its legacy of racial strife or finally looks past skin color to the person’s content of character. At the end of his journey, Steele hopes to return to his two children, Jack and June, with a better and realistic understanding of how to prepare them for the America they will live in 2050.

Interview subjects include Clay Cane, Jennifer Ceci, Jen Chau, Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Eric ‘Charles’ Jaskolski, Angela Mckee, Farzana Nayani, Jared Sexton, and Ken Tanabe.

For more information, click here.

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The Multiracial Identity Movement: Countless Ways to Misunderstand Race

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-11-04 04:15Z by Steven

The Multiracial Identity Movement: Countless Ways to Misunderstand Race

Steven F. Riley

In Jen Chau’s essay, “Multiracial Families: Counted But Still Misunderstood,” in the October 31, 2011 issue of Racialiscious, reveals just how much race is misunderstood by some activists within the multiracial identity movement and exemplifies why the movement—in its current form—is incapable of leading us into a post-racial future.

Part of the “quiet” that Ms. Chau is experiencing is due to the realization that President Barack Obama is not the multiracial messiah some had thought he would be. He is neither a messiah, nor is he—as he has stated on multiple occasions—multiracial.  Unfortunately, in many ways, the policies of our first black President differ little from our previous white President (George W. Bush). Is this the “black-white mix” we were hoping for? Perhaps the quiet is the palatable disappointment in President Obama’s first three years office. What part of “race is a social construction” does she not understand?  As succinctly stated by Professor Richard Thompson Ford,

“Because race is a social category and not a biological or genetic one, Obama’s mixed parentage does not determine his race. Mixed parentage may influence one’s appearance, and a person whose appearance is racially ambiguous can influence how she is perceived. In such instances, race may be a question of personal affiliation to some extent. And mixed parentage may influence how one chooses to identify. But for the most part, society assigns us our races. At any rate, Obama’s appearance is not ambiguous, and he unquestionably identifies as black.” (Emphasis is mine.)

A good first step would be to for activists respect Obama’s identity as they would like us to respect theirs.

My theory—which differs considerably from Ms. Chau’s—is that the “quiet” is due to fact that multiracial-identity movement is simply not the progressive force she and others think it is; and we—including activists themselves—are beginning to recognize that.  In many ways, the multiracial-identity movement mimics the tactics, ideologies and demagogueries of the right-wing conservative adherents that it claims to fight.

The problems with the movement are numerous, but they can be narrowed to three major issues: 1) Race as biology, 2) Ahistoricity, and 3) the refusal to discuss the role of white supremacy within the discourses of multiraciality.

After nearly a century of scientific acknowledgment that there is no such thing as “race” as a biological concept, why do some in the movement still pursue issues dealing with so-called “multiracial medicine?”  A truly progressive movement would preface all of its statements with the fact that “race” in short, was a concept used to justify the extermination and enslavement of non-Europeans.

Another deficiency in the multiracial movement is its unwillingness to acknowledge that so-called “racial mixing” in the Americas is a five-century—not four decade—aspect of our history.  Thus even if “race” were a biological concept, we are all most certainly “mixed” by now.  Rather than making hypocritical (demanding the freedom to self-identify for some but not for others) pronouncements on President Obama’s heterogeneous background, multiracial activists should also consider the heterogeneity of the First Lady Michelle Obama, the overwhelming vast majority of black and Latino Americans, and yes, a significant segment of white Americans. In 1927, 40 years before the mythological baby-boom that was allegedly brought about by Loving v. Virginia and just seven years after the last 20th-century census that would enumerate “mixed-race” people (Ms. Chau seems to have forgotten the seven past censuses starting in 1850 that counted mixed-race individuals), anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits, revealed that,

“The word “Negro” is, biologically, a misnomer, for the African Negroes, brought to the United States as slaves, have crossed in breeding with the dominant White population, as well as with the aboriginal American Indian types with whom they came into contact, so that there is today only a small percentage of the American Negroes who may be considered Negro in the ordinary sense of the term.” (The emphasis is mine.)

When an early 20th-century anthropologist—in the midst of an overtly racist era—can show more insight that 21st century activists—in the midst of the so-called “Age of Obama” era—we have a serious problem.

Lastly, the most deafening “quiet” within the multiracial movement, is its silence on the role of white supremacy in the continuing oppression and shaping of identities here in United States and around the world.  It is the ideology of white supremacy that created the notion of race as biology, then racialized and dehumanized, enlslaved, and exterminated people around the world for centuries—and continue to do—to preserve the current Eurocentric hegemonic paradigm.  As Professor G. Reginald Daniel has warned,

“We should be especially concerned about any half-hearted attack on the Eurocentric paradigm in the manner of interracial colorism that merely weakens rather than eradicates the dichotomization of blackness and whiteness, while leaving intact the racial hierarchy that maintains white privilege.”

The type of incidents that agitate the multiracial identity movement today are not the growing wealth disparities among racialized groups, or current vigorous attempts to curtail voting rights of minorities ahead of the 2012 General Election, but rather the freely chosen racial identity by the President or the chosen racial identity of the child of a Hollywood celebrity.  As Ms. Chau has stated, there are many ways that we have to fight racism and ignorance, yet the movement—particularly on the internet—is more interested in exploiting the bodies of young people by hosting “mixed-race” fashion shows that conjure-up images of Quadroon Balls from the early 19th-century or posting photographs of the allegedly “multiracial person of-the-day” in a self-aggrandizing exercise that Professor Rainier Spencer has coined as “miscentrism.”  At this rate, the multiracial-identity movement will be no more effective in combating racism and ignorance than a lukewarm decaffeinated soy-triple-shot no-fat latte at Starbucks.

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Multiracial Families: Counted But Still Misunderstood

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2011-11-01 02:27Z by Steven

Multiracial Families: Counted But Still Misunderstood


Jen Chau, Guest Contributor

In the past couple of years, I have noticed a certain complacency that I never noticed before, in my eleven years of leading Swirl. The same passion and the same excitement around building multiracial communities had faded a bit. In the one year leading up to the Presidential election, we launched five new chapters (the norm had been a chapter every year or every other year). People were excited by the energy created by Obama’s campaign, and they were motivated and eager to be a part of creating supportive and inclusive multiracial communities.

And then once Obama was firmly placed in the White House, something happened. It got quiet…

Read the entire article here.

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What Are You? Mixed-Heritage Brooklyn

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2011-09-23 04:30Z by Steven

What Are You? Mixed-Heritage Brooklyn

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, New York
2011-09-26, 19:00 EDT (Local Time)

All events are held at BHS and are free with museum admission ($6 adults, $4 students/teachers/seniors, free for children under 12) unless otherwise noted. Admission is always free for BHS members.

Participate in this discussion at BHS about mixed heritage co-sponsored by Loving Day, a global network fighting racial prejudice through education and building multicultural community. This conversation will be facilitated by Jen Chau of Swirl, a multi-ethnic, anti-racist organization that promotes cross-cultural dialogue, with Suleiman Osman, author of The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification, Race, and the Search for Authenticity in Post-War New York; performance artist Judith Sloan, co-author and co-creator with Warren Lehrer of Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a new America; and writer and actress Katrina Grigg-Saito, whose documentary and installation FishBird is titled for the saying “a fish can love a bird but where would they live?” This event is free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.

This event is part of Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations, a public programming series and oral history project about mixed-heritage families, race, ethnicity, culture, and identity, infused with historical perspective. This project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Humanities, New York Council for the Humanities, Two Trees Management, Brooklyn Brewery, Sweet’N Low, and Con Edison.

For more information, click here.

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Jen Chau Reflects on Her Work as a Change-Maker for Mixed-Race Communities

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2011-01-08 04:49Z by Steven

Jen Chau Reflects on Her Work as a Change-Maker for Mixed-Race Communities

Cole Krawitz

Jen Chau, founder and director of SWIRL, (and an eagerly anticipated contributor to JVoices) will be presenting this Sunday at Inside the Activists’ Studio (which JVoices is a co-sponsor) on how activism needs a serious make-over, and tools for building a sustainable activist life. We caught up with her before the day’s event to ask her a few questions about her work, the celebration of SWIRL’s 8th Anniversary, and how the Obama campaign raised awareness of mixed-race experiences in the United States.

CK: Today you’re celebrating the 8th Anniversary of the organization you started, SWIRL, and it’s continual growth and success as a national multi-ethnic organization that challenges society’s notions of race. Tell us how this all got started, and what it’s like to watch your organization continue to grow.

JC: My work with Swirl primarily grew out of a real need for community. Since I had grown up very much between and outside of communities, I was determined to create something for those who had also experienced having “one foot in and one foot out” – mixed race individuals. Additionally, I decided at the start that Swirl would also serve interracial couples and mixed families. We have always been inclusive of anyone who feels that their experiences challenge this country’s traditional notions of “race,” culture, and identity.

Read the entire article here.

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Anomaly: A documentary fim about multiracial identity

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2010-04-18 04:41Z by Steven

Anomaly: A documentary fim about multiracial identity

Langston Hughes African American Film Festival
Sunday, 2010-04-18 13:30 PDT (Local Time)
Central Cinema, 1411 21st Avenue (at Union), Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 686-6684

Jessica Chen Drammeh, Director/Producer

Sharon Smith, Co-Producer

Anomaly is a groundbreaking documentary film that takes an insider’s look at the experiences of multiracial Americans. Through personal narratives, Anomaly stimulates viewers to think about identity, family and community in a changing world.

The film features interviews and performances by:

The film also includes interviews with community expert Eric Hamako, Jen Chau of Swirl, Inc., Michele Elam (professor at Stanford University), Ann Morning (professor at New York University), and Jennifer Chan (professor at San Francisco State University).

For more information, click here.

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