How U.S. Law Inspired the Nazis

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Interviews, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-25 20:13Z by Steven

How U.S. Law Inspired the Nazis

The Chronicle Review
The Chronicle of Higher Education
2017-03-19

Marc Parry, Senior Reporter


Asian immigrants in the late 1920s await processing in an internment center in San Francisco. AP Images

It started with Mein Kampf. James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale University, was researching a legal-history question when he pulled Adolf Hitler’s mid-1920s manifesto from the shelf. What jumped out at Whitman was the admiration that Hitler expressed for the United States, a nation that the future FĂĽhrer lauded as “the one state” that had made progress toward establishing a healthy racial order. Digging deeper, Whitman discovered a neglected story about how the Nazis took inspiration from U.S. racial policies during the making of Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, the anti-Jewish legislation enacted in 1935. That history is the focus of Whitman’s new book, Hitler’s American Model (Princeton University Press). The interview that follows has been edited and condensed…

You also write that some Nazis felt that the American legal example went too far. The Nazis were very interested in the way Americans classified members of the different races, defining who counted as black or Asian or whatever it might be. And there, in particular, the most far-reaching Nazi definition of who counted as a Jew was less than what you found in almost any American state. The most far-reaching Nazi definition, which dates to 1933, held that a Jew was anybody who had one Jewish grandparent. There were a few American states that made the same provision with regard to blacks. But most of them went much further than that. At the extreme, American states had what’s called the one-drop rule. That is, one drop of black blood makes you black…

Read the entire interview here.

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When I Was White

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-07-06 18:24Z by Steven

When I Was White

The Chronicle Review
The Chronicle of Higher Education
2015-07-06

Sarah Valentine, Visiting Assistant Professor of English
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois


Sarah Valentine as a girl, with her two brothers (Source: Family photo)

Rachel Dolezal’s recent unmasking as a white woman living as black sparked a debate about the legitimacy of “transracial” experience. I cannot speak for Dolezal or anyone else, but I can state for a fact that racial transition is a valid experience, because I have gone through it.

While most people would look at this photo and see a black girl, two white boys, and a very surprised cat, they would be wrong. The girl in the photo is white, just like her brothers. I was raised in a white family from birth and taught to identify as white. For most of my life, I didn’t know that my biological father was black. Whenever I asked as a child about my darker skin, my mother corrected me, saying it was not dark but “olive.” When others asked if I was adopted, my mother ignored them. Eventually everyone, including me, stopped asking.

When, as an adult, I learned the truth of my paternity, I began the difficult process of changing my identity from white to black. The difficulty did not lie in an unwillingness to give up my whiteness. On the contrary, the revelation of my paternity was a relief: It confirmed that I was different from my parents and siblings, something I had felt deeply all my life.

The dilemma I faced was this: If I am mixed race and black, what do I do with the white sense of self I lived with for 27 years, and how does one become black? Is that even possible? Now, you may say that the rest of the world already saw me as black and all I had to do was catch up. True. But “catching up” meant that I had to blow the lid off the Pandora’s box of everything I thought I knew about myself and about race in America…

Read the entire article here.

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A History of Loss

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-02-10 21:08Z by Steven

A History of Loss

The Chronicle Review
The Chronicle of Higher Education
2015-02-09

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History
Stanford University

Alexander L. Manly could have been the first victim of the bloody race riot that exploded in Wilmington, N.C., in early November 1898. Manly, publisher of the Daily Record, North Carolina’s only African-American newspaper, was the target of the rioters after he wrote an inflammatory editorial about white supremacists’ charges that black men were assaulting white women. Manly fired back that the white women who claimed that black men had raped them had, in fact, engaged in consensual sex. His press was burned to the ground. He narrowly escaped to Philadelphia, but upon arrival, discovered that work was hard for a black man to find. Employers summarily rejected his applications for employment as a painter, insisting that no union would accept a black member.

“So I tried being white,” Manly later explained to the journalist Ray Stannard Baker, “that is, I did not reveal the fact that I had coloured blood, and I immediately got work in some of the best shops in Philadelphia. I joined the union and had no trouble at all.”

But Manly soon tired of the charade. Passing only during the work day—”9-to-5 passing,” it was called—meant that he had to leave his house early in the morning and could not return until after nightfall. He feared discovery. “The thing became unbearable,” he lamented. “I preferred to be a Negro and hold up my head rather than to be a sneak.” So he became a janitor and lived openly with his recognizably black wife and children.

Manly could have reaped all of the benefits that accrued to whiteness: economic opportunity and security, political agency, and countless social privileges. Indeed, by some accounts, his light skin had eased his escape from Wilmington, protected him from the racial violence that had engulfed the city, and very likely saved his life. But for Manly, those gains were far outweighed by all that there was to lose…

Read the entire article here.

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We Are all Mutants: Uncovering humanity’s vast diversity

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-03-24 20:42Z by Steven

We Are all Mutants: Uncovering humanity’s vast diversity

The Chronicle Review
The Chronicle of Higher Education
2014-03-24

Paul Voosen, Senior Reporter

On the hunt for disease genes, researchers uncover humanity’s vast diversity

The first people to set foot on Barbados, a wind-battered eastern spur of the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, came from the south, and relatively recently, no more than 1,700 years ago. Little remains of them: enough to know they were skilled farmers from the Orinoco Basin, in modern Venezuela. And like those of all humanity, their journey had started far earlier, when their ancestors, tens of thousands of years before, ventured out of Africa, across Asia, and into the Americas.

More people rolled in: The Lokano, clustered in scattered villages, hauling whelk and conch from the sea; and, in the 13th century, the Kalinagos, slipping on to the horizon in 50-foot-long dugout canoes. The Kalinagos reigned until the conquistadors. Hounded by European slavers, they fled windward to better defenses. By 1536, a Portuguese explorer could report Barbados as “uninhabited.”

It didn’t last. The English landed a century later and soon began importing slaves, ripped from their Ga, Igbo, and Ashanti communities in West Africa. By 1700, some 134,500 Africans lived in Barbados, in bondage; soon enough, 90 percent of Barbados’s population could claim African heritage, a percentage that holds true today.

A couple of decades ago, there was one more arrival: Kathleen C. Barnes, a graduate student and biological anthropologist from the University of Florida, who one day in 1991 walked into the emergency room of Barbados’s main hospital, the Queen Elizabeth. Throughout its human history, the island had had its share of plagues and troubles. Now Barnes was there to study a modern, quiet epidemic.

In a dedicated bay, child after child sat listless, worried mothers by their sides. The children were masked, inhaling medication for their wheezing, swollen airways. The machines hissed. Nearly one-fifth of Barbadians had asthma, far above the global average. Barnes wanted to find out why.

A native of a Virginia tobacco town known for housing the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy,” Barnes, who is white, grew up a witness to the civil-rights movement; in second grade, her school was forcibly desegregated. Trained initially as a nurse, she was troubled by the health disparities she saw in the United States. For example, African-Americans suffered from asthma far more than white populations did. There were many possible socioeconomic reasons. But Barnes thought it was mostly about pests.

Past research had tied some of the asthma rate in African-Americans to dust mites and cockroach feces, exposures that are more likely in poor communities. Barnes saw many similarities between African-Americans and the Afro-Caribbeans of Barbados, with one important caveat: Unlike residents of Baltimore, where she would go to work for decades as a professor at the Johns Hopkins University, the Barbadians had only just begun to live in homes conducive to household pests. A natural experiment had begun.

Barnes lived in Barbados for a year, running a lab across the street from the Queen Elizabeth, visiting homes to gauge their exposures. At the time, many Barbadians lived in chattel houses, movable wooden homes to which many residents had added bit by bit, enclosing them in concrete structures, with indoor plumbing. Dust mites loved the enclosed homes: Some of the levels Barnes measured were the highest ever recorded, she says. Surely that had to explain some of the asthma rate.

It probably did, as did other factors in a rapidly modernizing country: shifting diet and microbiome, rising obesity, wealth—the type of influences that are often lumped together as “environment.” But controlling for those, Barnes saw that a disparity still remained between people descended directly from Africa and those who came through Europe. Something more fundamental was at play, she realized. Something that would shape the next 20 years of her work.

“It seemed like the missing piece,” she said, “was understanding the genetic basis for these complex diseases.”…

…Let’s stop here to note: If you took any section of a person’s DNA and compared it with a stranger’s, no matter their ethnic background, odds are high they’d be identical. This is not platitude: These odds guide large-scale genome sequencing. They are fundamental. Humanity is deeply shared. It just happened that when it comes to asthma, for this one gene variant, people of European and African descent are distinct. At some point, after they diverged in ancient times, a mutation had taken hold. It wasn’t about race. It was about contingency. History.

“One thing we can’t do is use race as a proxy,” says Carlos D. Bustamante, a genetics professor at Stanford University and a Barnes collaborator. “It’s a very blunt tool. But we also can’t say there are no genetic differences across populations. Because it’s just not true.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed-Race Chic

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-15 20:08Z by Steven

Mixed-Race Chic

The Chronicle Review
The Chronicle of Higher Education
2009-05-19

Rainier Spencer, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Popular wisdom suggests that we are in the midst of a transformation in the way race is constructed in the United States. Indeed, so strong and so inevitable is this shift said to be that longstanding racial dynamics are purportedly being dismantled and reconstructed even as you read these words.

According to this view, individuals of mixed race, particularly first-generation multiracial people, are confounding the American racial template with their ambiguous phenotypes and purported ability to serve as living bridges between races. This perspective is reflected in television and magazine advertising and coverage and in books both academic and nonacademic. As long as a decade ago, the sociologist Kathleen Odell Korgen wrote in From Black to Biracial: Transforming Racial Identity Among Americans (Praeger, 1998) that “today mixed-race Americans challenge the very foundation of our racial structure.”

From his well-received speech on race, in which he positioned himself as having a direct understanding of both black and white anger, to his reference to himself as a “mutt,” Barack Obama and his historic election have significantly boosted this view. Many Americans hail his background as portending our postracial future. We hear that self-styled multiracial young adults accept their mixed identity far more than did their pre-civil-rights-era predecessors; but precisely what they are actually assenting to and what it means may be little more than a fad.

People who see us accepting a new multiracial identity have long argued that it is destructive of race: that recognition and acceptance of multiracialism will bring about the demise of the American racial model. The American Multiracial Identity Movement thereby suggests that multiracial identity possesses an insurgent character, a militant stance against the idea of recognizing race in the United States.

Regardless of their contemporary popularity, such claims are without merit. Indeed, they are self-contradictory. If one holds that multiracial identity is a real and valid identity, then it can be sensible only as a biological racial identity. If words are to mean anything, and they should, it quite obviously cannot be that a multiracial identity is somehow not a biological racial identity. Rather, multiracial identity merely falls in place to join other, already existing racial categories…

…As Catherine R. Squires, a professor of journalism, writes in Dispatches From the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America (State University of New York Press, 2007), multiracialism is fundamentally ambiguous: “This ambiguity is about exoticism and intrigue, providing opportunities for consumers to fantasize and speculate about the Other with no expectations of critical consideration of power and racial categories.” Squires makes an important point, for it is crucial to be able to separate racial ambiguity that might be utilized to work consciously against racial hierarchies from racial ambiguity that is simply a form of self-interested celebration that ends up reinforcing those racial hierarchies…

Read the entire article here.

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