Susan Graham Discusses Project RACE

Posted in Audio, Census/Demographics, Interviews, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-08-15 23:22Z by Steven

Susan Graham Discusses Project RACE

Mixed Race Radio
2012-08-15, 17:00Z (12:00 EDT, 09:00 PDT)

Tiffany Rae Reid, Host

Susan Graham, Executive Director
Project RACE

Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) members are the national advocates for multiracial children, teens, adults, and our families. Project RACE was started in 1990, so we are in our 22nd year! Susan Graham, the mother of two multiracial children and Chris Ashe, the mother of a multiracial child began Project RACE because of their own frustration with their own children being forced to pick only one race on forms in America. That meant, very simply, that a child had to choose to be her mother’s race or her father’s race. Susan and Chris planned to start a grassroots movement to pass State legislation, mandate the US Census Bureau and federal agencies to add the term “multiracial” to forms, or in some way accommodate the needs of multiracial people.

Play in your default player here.

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Will new age of mixed-race identities loosen the hold of race or tie it up in tighter knots?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-08-01 23:08Z by Steven

Will new age of mixed-race identities loosen the hold of race or tie it up in tighter knots?

Newhouse News Service

Jonathan Tilove

Ward Connerly, who describes himself as a roughly equal mix of French Canadian, Choctaw, African and Irish ancestry and who is married to a white woman, spent much of the last decade campaigning to end race-based affirmative action. Susan Graham, a white woman married to a black man, has spent that same decade working tirelessly as the founder of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) so that her two children and others like them could be counted in official statistics as “multiracial.”

For the first time in American history, respondents to the decennial census are able to identify themselves by as many races as they see fit. The tabulated results will yield 63 different categories and combinations—or 126 considering that each of those 63 could also be either Hispanic or non-Hispanic. And that does not take into account the limitless possibilities for writing in some race of one’s own devising.

But when the 2000 census is completed, all the folks at both the Connerly and Graham households will be assigned the race of their nearest neighbors. Why? Because both Connerly and Graham, for their own very different reasons, refused to check any of the boxes on the race question.

As America embarks on a new, more complicated era of racial counting, a look at how some of those close to the issue chose to answer the census race question presents a puzzle: Is this dawning age of mixed-race identities likely to loosen the hold of race on the American mind, or merely tie it up in tighter knots?

“It is progress,” said G. Reginald Daniel, a sociologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “Whether people understand it or not, we’re undoing 300 years of racial formation. We have yet to see the after-effect, but it will be radical.”

Daniel, who grew up black in Kentucky, said he has been thinking about his racial identity since Dec. 2, 1955, when his first-grade teacher reported that Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to let a white passenger have her seat on the bus. “It’s time we colored people stood up for our rights,” the teacher told her students.

Daniel was puzzled. He raised his hand and asked the teacher who “colored” people were. “Everyone in this school,” the teacher, startled, replied. But, Daniel persisted, what color are they? “We’re brown! We’re Negroes!” the teacher replied…

But Daniel’s skin was tan, a blend of white and brown, and when he asked his mother about it she explained that while they were a mix of African, Irish, English, French, American Indian, Asian Indian and maybe even German-Jewish, they were still members of the “Negro race.”

Over time, Daniel came to identify himself as multiracial. He became a leading intellectual adviser, at one point to Project RACE and on a continuing basis to the Association for MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA)—the largest of the organizations that pressed for a multiracial category on the census. The federal Office of Management and Budget rejected that possibility but in 1997, after four years of deliberation, announced that on the 2000 census respondents would be able to check as many races as apply…

…But to Susan Graham, the form felt like one step forward and two steps back. Graham had wanted a separate multiracial category so that children like hers would not have to choose between their parents’ racial identities, or end up some unclassifiable “other.”…

…“I’m not about to have my children check more than one box only to be relegated back to the black category,” said Graham, who now lives in Tallahassee, Fla. She left the race question blank.

But the census cannot permit blanks, so, by a statistical method known as “hot deck imputation,” Graham’s family will be assigned races that blend best with their closest neighbors—the assumption being that most people live in neighborhoods that match them racially. And, in Graham’s case that is true, with immediate neighbors black, white and interracial.

Rainier Spencer, a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, has studied the multiracial movement in his book, “Spurious Issues: Race and Multiracial Identity Politics in the United States.” He faults Graham’s logic.

In Spencer’s view, Graham and others in the multiracial movement deploy their distaste with the one-drop rule selectively. If they truly want its repeal, they must recognize that virtually all African-Americans are multiracial.

To him, the whole notion of a multiracial identity depends on an assumption that racial identity is real. And as Spencer told some 100 students at the Pan-Collegiate Conference on the Mixed-Race Experience, held recently at Harvard University and Wellesley College, “All racial identity is bogus, no matter whether the prefix is mono, multi or bi.”

The “insurgent idea” of multiraciality can undermine the racial order by “demonstrating the absurdity of fixed and exclusive racial categories,” he writes in his book. But the moment multiracial becomes an official category—a box to be checked—it no longer undermines the existing racial paradigm, but expands it.

Moreover, Spencer said, while race may not truly exist, racism does, and OMB acted quite appropriately in ordering the racial data collapsed back into traditional categories for civil rights purposes…

Read the entire article here.

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As Racist as We Wish to Be: Project RACE, “The Talk”, Obama and the Fear of Blackness

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Social Science, United States on 2012-04-27 00:48Z by Steven

As Racist as We Wish to Be: Project RACE, “The Talk”, Obama and the Fear of Blackness

Steven F. Riley

Late last year, I opined about the inability of some activists in the multiracial identity movement to combat racism.  It is difficult to combat racism if you are not anti-racist and quite impossible if you—or at least your rhetoric—is actually racist. Such is the case in a March 29, 2012 blog post by Susan Graham at Project RACE titled “Walking While Black,” (also here) that epitomizes racist anti-black ideology.

Graham, a white woman who purports to represent the interests of multiracial Americans, has written the most inane commentary on multiracialism you will find anywhere.  Her  pseudo-scientific commentary reads as if it were written in the early part of the previous century, deploying ideologies long since abandoned by anthropologists and biologists alike. For instance, in “The Obama Racial Identity Factor and Saving Multiracial Lives” (June 7, 2008) she opens with, “Barack Obama can call himself black, white, magenta, green, or whatever he wants, it really does not matter socially. However, genes are genes and his genes are multiracial.” Seven months later, when millions of Americans have moved from doubting that a black man can become president and actually electing one, Graham continues with her mindless foray into genetics in “January 2009 – Is this President Obama’s Post-Racial America?” (January 20, 2009) where she says, “We have our first multiracial president, Barack Obama, and even if he does self-identify as black, he cannot deny DNA.”

Three years later and not a day wiser, in a still pre-post-racial America, Graham uses the tragic and racially motivated shooting death of Trayvon Martin as an entree into her racist “Walking While Black” about the travails of the lives of African American males.  She partially describes the concept of “Driving While Black” and the so-called “Black Male Code” of conduct when one is confronted by the police.  She neglects to mention that “Driving While Black” also involves being targeted to be pulled over in the first place. Graham goes on to describe her then-husband’s habit of always carrying identification no matter where he went just in case he was confronted by police. Finally, she describes how when her son reached driving age, she and her then-husband had “the talk” with him about what to do when confronted by police.  Graham says, “she gets it.”  She does not.

Despite the death of Trayvon Martin, the indignities and civil rights violations of “Driving While Black,” and the “Black Male Code,” Graham is neither, angry, concerned or even bothered about the daily aggressions directed at black men in American as they try to live as decent citizens.  She is unwilling to speak out against even the most explicit forms of racism that still exist in America.  So what does bother her? What “bothers” her is the fact that President Obama, chooses to proudly identify as “black.”

While many view the multiracial identity movement in America as a way to transcend race and to remove the proverbial millstone of racialized identities off of all our necks, scholars like Jared Ball, Minkah Makalani, Lewis R. Gordon, Ralina L. Joseph, Jared Sexton, Rainier Spencer and others, see a movement with a primary goal of transcending blackness. As blogger Summer McDonald eloquently states in her essay “Canon Fodder: ‘The Girl Who Fell From the Sky’ and the Problem of Mixed-Race Identity” (August 18, 2011),

Accepting and embracing a mixed-race identity hardly reveals racial progress. As it is currently constructed, mixed-race identity does not dismantle racial hierarchies. Rather, it reiterates white supremacy by attempting to etch a space for itself somewhere under whiteness–which it knows it can never access–and definitely above blackness.

Susan Graham and Project RACE, without a doubt, prove these writers correct. When her son asks “what does ‘driving while black’ mean to me?” She explains, “self-identification is one thing, but how he appears to someone can be completely different and yes, someone could assume he was black, so he had to act accordingly. Be on the safe side, son.” Again, what bothers Graham is not that black men are “perceived as a threat,” but rather, that her son will be perceived as a black man. Thus in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin tragedy when multitudes of commentators of all racialized identities proclaim  “We are Trayvon,” Graham and Project RACE, proclaim “We are not black.”

While Graham does seem to accept the fact that one’s self-identification can be different from how one appears to someone else, she refuses to grasp how one’s appearance to others can and does influence one’s self-identification. Scholar Nikki Khanna’s excellent article, “‘If You’re Half Black, You’re Just Black’: Reflected Appraisals and the Persistence of the One-Drop Rule” describes the role of self-reflected appraisals—how we think we are seen by others—on the identity of those of mixed-ancestry and shows how these identity choices, like one made by President Obama, are honest, common—and despite Ms. Graham’s continual protestations—valid. Phil Wilkes Fixico said it best when he stated on Mixed Chicks Chat (September 14, 2011), “Racially, I’m an African-Native American. Culturally, I’m an aspiring Seminole Maroon descendant. But to the people of America who see me on the street, I’m just another flavor of Black.”

As countless commentators continue to appropriately condemn the prevalence of white supremacy that demonizes people of color (like Trayvon Martin) and white privilege that provides license to the demonizers, Graham says nothing whatsoever about these evils, but rather chooses to take offense exclusively President Obama when he suggested that if he had a son, “he would look like Trayvon.” Though she is correct in stating that the President “doesn’t know that his son would look like Trayvon or anybody else,” it is clear that her anger at Obama is magnified, not just by his identifying as a black American, but now, identifying with black Americans. Furthermore, the resemblance of Obama’s imaginary son to Trayvon Martin is irrelevant because more importantly, it is Obama himself who would “look like Trayvon” if he were seventeen. As Leila McDowell put it so aptly in Associated Press columnist Jesse Washington’s “Black or biracial? Census forces a choice for some,” “Put a hoodie on him and have him walk down an alley, and see how biracial he is then.”

Susan Graham fails to see that the things we ultimately pass down to our children are more important than genes; they are our values and attitudes, hopes and fears, our love and our hate. In short, these are the things that define us. Hopefully, one of those things won’t be race. Until then, Graham may discover that in passing down the “Black Male Code” to her son, he may one day choose to identify, like President Obama and Phil Fixico, as “just a another flavor of Black.” In the meanwhile, perhaps it’s time someone had “the talk” with Ms. Graham and suggest she move on to a new project.

©2012, Steven F. Riley

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“Multiracial” Genes?

Posted in Barack Obama, Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-01-13 06:37Z by Steven

Barack Obama can call himself black, white magenta, green, or whatever he wants, it really does not matter socially. However, genes are genes and his genes are multiracial. Barack Obama has a white mother and a black father, and to categorize him as only one race medically is just wrong, inaccurate, and likely to cost multiracial people their lives.

Susan Graham, “The Obama Racial Identity Factor and Saving Multiracial Lives,” Project Race: From the Director, June 2008.

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Color outside the lines

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-05 05:17Z by Steven

Color outside the lines

Columbia Missourian

Sara Fernández Cendon

The boundaries between traditional racial categories shift as more people identify themselves as multiracial. The term adds another dimension to the complex issue of race in America.

Some say Tiger Woods started it all.

After winning the Masters Tournament in 1997, the golf star described himself as “Cablinasian” — as in Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian.

Colin Powell, a light-skinned black man, quickly dismissed Wood’s invention.

“In America, which I love from the depths of my heart and soul, when you look like me, you’re black,” Powell said.

Woods says “Cablinasian” honors his multiracial heritage. In 1997 he told Oprah Winfrey that being identified solely as an African-American bothered him. But others, who agree with Colin Powell, believe Woods will always be thought of as black and treated as such.

The Woods-Powell disagreement illustrates the deep rift between those who believe that race is a biological category and those who believe it is a political one. As more mixed-race couples join Woods’ camp by identifying their children as “multiracial,” or even “white,” civil rights groups worry about the loss of historical racial categories.

Critics of the multiracial label believe the American racial landscape is still dominated by the “one-drop” rule, which held that a person with just one black ancestor was still black. Their argument is that you don’t need much “color” to be a “person of color.” Discrimination affects people of color, they say, regardless of how light their skin might be or how they identify themselves racially…


David Brunsma

White people have made disparaging racial comments around him expecting to get a nod in return. But fair-skinned, red-haired, blue-eyed David Brunsma has no tolerance for “whiteness” because “white” to him is synonymous with privilege. He says he gets questions like, “What are the best neighborhoods in town, if you know what I mean …” His response: “No, I really don’t know what you mean.”

Half-Puerto Rican and half-Caucasian, Brunsma does not think of himself as biracial, but he does consider “Hispanic” to be a racial category…


Susan Graham and Project RACE

You can’t blame Ryan Graham for not wanting to check “other” on questionnaires requesting racial information. “It makes me feel like a freak or a space alien,” he testified during a U.S. House hearing on multiracial identification back in 1997, when he was 12 years old.

Ryan’s mother, Susan Graham, is the executive director of Project RACE, an advocacy organization for multiracial individuals. She, too, testified before the House on behalf of a separate multiracial category in census forms.

In her testimony, Graham berated the “all that apply” compromise announced by the Office of Management and Budget just days before the hearing.

“My children and millions of children like them merely become ‘check all that apply’ kids or ‘check more than one box’ children or ‘more than one race’ persons. They will be known as ‘multiple check offs’ or ‘half and halfers,’” she said…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama’s census mark reveals race views

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-05-01 04:45Z by Steven

Obama’s census mark reveals race views

The Washington Times

Joseph Curl

America’s first black president has deliberately shied away from spurring a national discussion on race, most recently by checking only “African-American” on his U.S. census form without offering a word of explanation about his choice.

The studied silence from the bully pulpit held by President Obama has frustrated multiracial organizations, giving rise to questions about whether the president acted out of political consideration and why the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas would not acknowledge his mother’s heritage.

“It’s frustrating from a point that there’s a lot of multiracial people out there who see Obama doing that, knowing that he is multiracial, and they think that maybe that’s the right choice,” said Ryan Graham, the product of a mixed-race marriage whose mother founded Project Race in 1991 to push for a multiracial classification on the census form.

“But there’s a lot of people saying maybe it’s the wrong choice,” he said…

…There is no question that Mr. Obama’s decision complies with the goals of U.S. census officials; the answer to Question 9 about race is exclusively about “self-identification in which respondents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify.”

“The racial categories included in the census form generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country, and are not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically,” the Census Bureau says in its “2010 Census Constituent FAQs.”…

…But the president’s decision to check only “black” on his census form makes complete sense to Charles W. Mills, a researcher on race and a professor at Northwestern University.

“Race is a social convention. For him to claim whiteness would be rejected by the social convention of the country. The way I see it, his decision was a perfectly reasonable one, given that this is how the American rules have been,” Mr. Mills said…

Read the entire article here.

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