Before Arguing About DNA Tests, Learn the Science Behind Them

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy on 2018-10-25 00:51Z by Steven

Before Arguing About DNA Tests, Learn the Science Behind Them

The New York Times
2018-10-18

Carl Zimmer


Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test results indicated that she had a Native American ancestor several generations ago.
Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

Our genetic code cannot be treated as a matter of simple fractions.

People have always told stories about their ancestral origins. But now millions of people are looking at their DNA to see if those stories hold up. While genetic tests can indeed reveal some secrets about our family past, we can also jump to the wrong conclusions from their results.

The reception of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA results is a textbook case in this confusion…

…Slavery, too, led to an obsession with increasingly tiny fractions of ancestral blood, reaching the absurd extreme of the “one drop” rule. A single black ancestor — no matter how far back in the family tree, no matter how tiny the mythical drop of blood he or she contributed — was enough to make a person black…

…But DNA is not a liquid that can be divided down into microscopic drops. It’s a string-like molecule, arranged into 23 pairs of chromosomes, that gets passed down through the generations in a counterintuitive way.

Eggs and sperm randomly end up with one copy of each chromosome, coming either from a person’s mother or father. In the process, some DNA can shuffle from one chromosome to its partner. That means we inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average. Any one person may inherit more DNA from one grandparent and less from another.

Over generations, this randomness can lead to something remarkable. Look back far enough in your family tree, and you’ll encounter ancestors from whom you inherit no DNA at all…

Read the entire article here.

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Was Interracial Love Possible in the Days of Slavery? Descendants of One Couple Think So

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-10-21 14:45Z by Steven

Was Interracial Love Possible in the Days of Slavery? Descendants of One Couple Think So

The New York Times
2018-10-21

Adeel Hassan


Paula Wright, a seventh-generation descendant of an interracial couple, has documented over 500 images that chronicle her family’s history.
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

He was buried in a white cemetery. She was buried in a black cemetery. Their marriage was unheard-of at the time.

Both William Ramey and his wife, Kittie Simkins, were born and raised in Edgefield, S.C., or “Bloody Edgefield,” a town known for its grisly murder rate in the antebellum South. Their relationship defied convention, and yet it survived war and bitter family resentment.

Mr. Ramey, born in 1840, came from a prominent white family. Ms. Simkins was born a slave in 1845, most likely on a property called Edgewood owned by Francis Pickens, who would become a Confederate governor.

The love affair could have been lost if not for Paula Wright, a seventh-generation descendant of the couple who inherited vintage photographs documenting eight generations of her family, dating to 1805. Ms. Wright, a New York Times reader, shared her family’s story with Race/Related earlier this year…

Read the entire article here.

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Naomi Osaka, a New Governor and Me

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Media Archive on 2018-10-08 03:48Z by Steven

Naomi Osaka, a New Governor and Me

The New York Times
2018-10-06

Motoko Rich, Tokyo Bureau Chief


The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun printed a special edition when Naomi Osaka won the United States Open tennis championship in September. Yomiuri Shimbun, via Associated Press

Is Japan becoming more welcoming to mixed-race people?

TOKYO — Just over 40 years ago, when my family moved from California to Tokyo, the fact that my mother was Japanese did not stop schoolchildren from pointing at me and yelling “Gaijin!” — the Japanese word for foreigner — as I walked down the street.

After seeing my red-haired, blue-eyed father, a shopkeeper in the suburb where we lived asked my mother what it was like to work as a nanny in the American’s house.

When we moved back to California two years later, I entered fourth grade and suddenly, I was the Asian kid. “Ching chong chang chong ching!” boys chanted on the playground, tugging at the corners of their eyes. Classmates scrunched their noses at the onigiri — rice balls wrapped in dried seaweed — that my mother packed in my lunch bag. When our teacher mentioned Japan during a social studies lesson, every head in the class swiveled to stare at me.

Now, back in Tokyo as a foreign correspondent for this newspaper, I am no longer pointed at by people on the street. But I am incontrovertibly regarded as a foreigner. When I hand over my business card, people look at my face and then ask in confusion how I got my first name. My Japanese-ness, it seems, barely registers.

In the past few weeks, covering local reaction to the tennis champion Naomi Osaka, the daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, and Denny Tamaki, who is the son of a Japanese mother and a white American Marine and was elected governor of Okinawa last weekend, I have wondered whether Japanese attitudes toward identity are slowly starting to accommodate those of us with mixed heritages…

Read the entire article here.

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Zazie Beetz on ‘Atlanta,’ Her Emmy Nomination and Impostor Syndrome

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2018-08-28 01:42Z by Steven

Zazie Beetz on ‘Atlanta,’ Her Emmy Nomination and Impostor Syndrome

The New York Times
2018-08-24

Aisha Harris, Assistant Television Editor, Culture Desk


Zazie Beetz received her first Emmy nomination, for her work in “Atlanta” on FX. Guy D’Alema/FX

Zazie Beetz has had quite the year. The burgeoning actor returned for Season 2 of FX’s critically acclaimed dramedy “Atlanta,” unpacking more layers of her character Van in some particularly memorable episodes. (One scene from the episode “Champagne Papi” took on new life thanks to Drake, who included one of her lines at the end of his No. 1 hit “In My Feelings.”) This summer, she reached an even wider audience with “Deadpool 2,” receiving accolades for her performance as Domino, a mutant whose superpower is luck.

And last month Ms. Beetz received her first Emmy nomination, for best supporting actress in a comedy for “Atlanta.” As someone who suffers from severe anxiety, however, the awards recognition and the increased visibility that comes with it have not been easy to process. “I don’t even know if I should say this publicly, but I feel kind of like, ‘O.K., cool,’” she said.

“I’m glad that shows like ‘Atlanta’ and our other contemporaries are having an opportunity to be seen and to be appreciated,” she continued, “and I’m glad that I can contribute in that way. That’s really what I’m happy about.”

In a phone interview, Ms. Beetz discussed exploring new facets of Van, her own biracial identity and experiencing anxiety and impostor syndrome in Hollywood. These are edited excerpts from the conversation…

Read the entire interview here.

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Representation Is More Than Skin Color

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2018-08-27 14:55Z by Steven

Representation Is More Than Skin Color

The New York Times
2018-08-27

Bianca Vivion Brooks, Host
ASK VIV


The Poet, Robert Hayden. Pach Brothers/Corbis, via Getty Images

Is it enough to look like the artist if you do not recognize yourself in the art?

I remember the first time I fell in love with poetry.

I was in 10th grade, and my world literature teacher, Ms. Joe, had assigned us the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. I read the poem and at once found myself engrossed in my own memory. I, too, recalled the coldness of my childhood home and the “austere and lonely offices” of my father’s love.

In his verses, Hayden made me feel seen. The poem provided a kind of relief, to know that my childhood was not a complete anomaly, and that others had grown up in similar spaces where love was convoluted by anger and loneliness. That day Robert Hayden became my favorite poet. I held on to this particular poem for years, memorizing it not only for the comfort it provided, but also as a reminder of what good art could do.

Five years later, I discovered Robert Hayden was black. It was the first day of my African-American Literature seminar at Columbia, and I was skimming the syllabus while deciding whether or not to enroll in the course. There in italics, just beneath James Baldwin’sNotes of a Native Son” read Words in the Mourning Time (1970) by Robert Hayden. I Googled a picture of my favorite poet and laughed aloud. “So he’s black,” I thought to myself…

Read the entire article here.

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Overlooked by the Media, Women Like Me Took to Instagram

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-07-29 23:50Z by Steven

Overlooked by the Media, Women Like Me Took to Instagram

The New York Times
2017-07-28

Natasha S. Alford, Deputy Editor
The Grio


Monica Ramos

I rarely see Afro-Latinas on television. Online, it’s a different story.

I was about 11 years old when I started to think I wasn’t like the other Latina girls.

The summer before sixth grade, my mother put me in a beauty pageant sponsored by a Hispanic community organization in Syracuse, N.Y., where we lived. The stage wasn’t fancy — it was in a gymnasium on the West Side, one of the poorest areas of the city. But there was a lot at stake. The winner would represent the pride of the community during the Puerto Rican Day Festival parade.

I was mortified at the idea of competing. Aside from being a nerd with thick plastic glasses and a school marching band membership to match, I didn’t look Latina. At least not compared with my pageant competitors or the women and girls I saw in the media…

Read the entire article here.

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Overlooked No More: Edmonia Lewis, Sculptor of Worldwide Acclaim

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2018-07-29 23:35Z by Steven

Overlooked No More: Edmonia Lewis, Sculptor of Worldwide Acclaim

The New York Times
2018-07-25

Penelope Green


The 19th century sculptor Edmonia Lewis. The intense focus on her race both frustrated her and fueled her ambition.
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum

As an artist she transcended constraints, and as a woman of color, she confronted a society that wished to categorize her.

Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. With Overlooked, we’re adding the stories of remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times.

It was the middle of the 19th century, and Edmonia Lewis, part West Indian, part Chippewa, had the audacity to be an artist. It was risky enough for a free woman of color to pursue such a career, but to claim marble as her medium was to tilt at the Victorian conventions of the time, which decreed gentler aesthetic forms for the second sex, like poetry or painting.

Among the first black sculptors known to achieve widespread international fame, Lewis was raised Catholic, educated at Oberlin College in Ohio and mentored by abolitionists in Boston. She lived much of her life in Rome, sailing to Europe in 1865 and joining a community of American sculptors there who included female artists derided by the author Henry James as “a white marmorean flock.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2018-07-06 03:13Z by Steven

The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family

The New York Times
2018-07-04

Brent Staples
Photographs by Damon Winter


A view of Thomas Jefferson’s home from the main avenue where enslaved people were quartered at Monticello.

A recently opened exhibit at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate gives new recognition to Sally Hemings and the role of slavery in the home — and in his family.

Plantation wives in the slave-era South resorted to willful blindness when their husbands conscripted black women as sexual servants and filled the household with mixed-race children who inevitably resembled the master. Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, was several years dead when he set off on this path, fathering at least six children with Martha’s enslaved black half sister, Sally Hemings. The task of dissembling fell to the remaining white Jeffersons, who aided in a cover-up that held sway for two centuries and feigned ignorance of a relationship between Jefferson and Hemings that lasted nearly four decades.

The foundation that owns Monticello, Jefferson’s mountaintop home near Charlottesville, Va., broke with this long-running deception last month when it unveiled several new exhibits that underscore the centrality of slavery on the founder’s estate. The most important — in the South Wing, where Sally Hemings once lived — explores the legacy of the enslaved woman whom some historians view as the president’s second wife and who skillfully prevailed on him to free from slavery the four Jefferson-Hemings children who lived into adulthood.

The exhibit underscores the fact that the Jefferson estate was an epicenter of racial mixing in early Virginia, making it impossible to draw clear lines between black and white. It reminds contemporary Americans that slave owners like the Jeffersons often held their own black children, aunts, uncles and cousins in bondage. And it illustrates how enslaved near-white relations used proximity to privilege to demystify whiteness while taking critical measure of the relatives who owned them…

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In Brazil, however, the often admirable blurring of racial boundaries is a modern reality that — rather than stemming from colorblindness — is tainted with the sinister origins of state-sanctioned attempts to dilute, even dissolve, blackness.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-07-01 05:14Z by Steven

[Paulo César] Lima’s words point to a painful and somewhat paradoxical consequence of Brazil’s racial fluidity. America’s politics of racial purity, which culminated in the notion that even one-drop of African blood made a person legally black, fostered solidarity among those targeted by discriminatory laws. In Brazil, however, the often admirable blurring of racial boundaries is a modern reality that — rather than stemming from colorblindness — is tainted with the sinister origins of state-sanctioned attempts to dilute, even dissolve, blackness.

Cleuci de Oliveira, “Is Neymar Black? Brazil and the Painful Relativity of Race,” The New York Times, June 30, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/30/opinion/is-neymar-black-brazil-and-the-painful-relativity-of-race.html.

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Is Neymar Black? Brazil and the Painful Relativity of Race

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Justice on 2018-07-01 04:57Z by Steven

Is Neymar Black? Brazil and the Painful Relativity of Race

The New York Times
2018-06-30

Cleuci de Oliveira, Brasília-based reporter


Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, center, celebrating a goal with his teammates during Brazil’s World Cup match against Serbia on Wednesday. Michael Steele/Getty Images

Ever since his “It’s not like I’m black, you know?” comment, Neymar has served as a focal point in the country’s cultural reckoning with racism, whitening, identity and public policy.

Years before he became the most expensive player in the world; before his Olympic gold medal; before the Eiffel Tower lit up with his name to greet his professional move from Barcelona to Paris, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, the Brazilian forward known to the world simply as Neymar, faced his first public relations controversy.

The year was 2010, and Neymar, then 18, had shot to fame in Brazil after a sensational breakout season. During an interview for the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, in between a conversation about Disneyland and sports cars, he was asked if he had ever experienced racism. “Never. Not in the field, nor outside of it,” he replied.

“It’s not like I’m black, you know?”

His answer was heard like a record-scratch across the country. Was this young man in denial about his racial identity? Particularly when in the same interview he outlined his meticulous hair care regime, which involved getting his locks chemically straightened every few weeks, then bleached blonde.

Or was there a less alarming explanation behind his comment? Could Neymar merely be pointing out that, as the son of a black father and a white mother, his lighter skin tone shielded him from the racist abuse directed at other players? Had he, at least in his context, reached whiteness? Whatever the interpretation, Neymar’s words revealed the tricky, often contradictory ways that many Brazilians talk, and fail to talk, about race in a country with the largest population of black descendants outside of Africa

Read the entire article here.

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