The mixed-race experience: ‘There are times I feel like the odd one out’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-08-26 23:34Z by Steven

The mixed-race experience: ‘There are times I feel like the odd one out’

The Guardian
2018-08-26

Alex Moshakis

‘It has given people a sense of belonging’: photographer Tenee Attoh on her photography project.
‘It has given people a sense of belonging’: photographer Tenee Attoh on her photography project. Composite: Tenee Attoh

A series of portraits of mixed-race people from around the world has cast new light on how we see ourselves

Last year the photographer Tenee Attoh began taking portraits of multiracial friends and acquaintances against a mottled black background at the Bussey Building in Peckham, southeast London. Attoh is half-Dutch on her mother’s side, half-Ghanaian on her father’s, and identifies as mixed-race. Born in the UK, she spent most of the first 23 years of her life in Accra and Amsterdam, shuttling between cities and cultures, an experience she found enlightening but problematic. “On the one hand it allows you to develop a different understanding of the world,” she says of her duality. “But there’s still a lot of ignorance in society. People perceive you as either black or white, and you’re not – you’re mixed.”

Working in London, Attoh heard similar stories from other mixed-race people, and soon she began publishing her images online (at mixedracefaces.com and on Instagram) alongside small texts that allowed her subjects to share personal thoughts on identity, race and self, something they couldn’t do elsewhere. Following the death of her mother, to whom the series is dedicated, the project helped Attoh dissect her own multiracial experience – what it means to be connected to two worlds at once, and how society perceives that condition – but it has also sparked an open forum on diversity. “It’s not a topic people usually talk about,” Attoh says. “So the website has become a platform for people with mixed heritage. It’s given a lot of them a sense of belonging.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The [passing] genre overlooks questions of colourism, treats racial identity as rigid and fixed, and the complexities of the mixed-race experience are ignored.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-08-22 04:01Z by Steven

The [passing] genre overlooks questions of colourism, treats racial identity as rigid and fixed, and the complexities of the mixed-race experience are ignored. And then there is the issue of optics. It is tricky for the passing character to move from page to screen. [John M.] Stahl’s selection of [Fredi] Washington for the role of Peola [in Imitation of Life (1934)] was hugely progressive for the 1930s. Not only did he give an actor who identified as black a significant role, but the film’s monochrome palette meant that Washington really looked white, which petrified southern segregationists.

Janine Bradbury, “‘Passing for white’: how a taboo film genre is being revived to expose racial privilege,” The Guardian, August 20, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/aug/20/passing-film-rebecca-hall-black-white-us-rac.

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‘Passing for white’: how a taboo film genre is being revived to expose racial privilege

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-08-22 00:48Z by Steven

‘Passing for white’: how a taboo film genre is being revived to expose racial privilege

The Guardian
2018-08-20

Janine Bradbury, Senior Lecturer in Literature; School Learning and Teaching Lead
School of Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
York St John University, York, United Kingdom

SUSAN KOHNER and JUANITA MOORE in Imitation of Life
Crossing the colour line … Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore as daughter and mother in Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959). Photograph: www.ronaldgrantarchive.com

Rebecca Hall’sdirectorial debut is an adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing, a theme little seen since the likes of Show Boat and Pinky

Hollywood once loved films about passing. The genre was popular in the 1940s and 50s, when segregation was rife and the “one-drop rule” – which deemed anybody with even a trace of African ancestry to be black – prevailed. Box-office hits included Elia Kazan’s Pinky (1949) and George Sidney’s musical Show Boat (1951), which featured light-skinned, mixed-race characters who passed for white in the hopes of enjoying the privileges whiteness confers. The secrets, the scandal and the sheer sensationalism of it all made for excellent melodrama.

Now Rebecca Hall, the star of Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Red Riding, is revisiting the genre with her directorial debut, an adaptation of Nella Larsen’s seminal 1929 novel Passing. Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga will feature in the project, which tells the story of childhood friends, Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield, who are both light-skinned enough to pass for white but choose to live on opposite sides of the colour line…

…How will Hall negotiate the tricky history of the genre? Even though it was a real-life phenomenon, most films about passing, including Pinky and Show Boat, have literary roots. William Wells Brown’s 1853 anti-slavery novel Clotel, which imagines the fate of Thomas Jefferson’s mixed race progeny, is perhaps the first American passing novel. Brown used passing to expose the arbitrary nature of white privilege. His mixed-race characters were a manifest symbol of the reality that many powerful, supposedly God-fearing white slaveholding men were coercing and raping enslaved black women and condemning their own children to a life in bondage (although, as Beyoncé recently revealed, not all unions were of this nature)…

Read the entire article here.

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Interview: ‘White people are so fragile, bless ’em’ … meet Rhiannon Giddens, banjo warrior

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-07-29 01:04Z by Steven

Interview: ‘White people are so fragile, bless ’em’ … meet Rhiannon Giddens, banjo warrior

The Guardian
2018-07-23

Emma John

‘I’m not here to be famous’ … Rhiannon Giddens, who is curating the Cambridge folk festival.
‘I’m not here to be famous’ … Rhiannon Giddens, who is curating the Cambridge folk festival. Photograph: Tanya Rosen-Jones

She pours fire and fury into powerful songs that target everything from police shootings to slavery. The musician reveals all about her mission to put the black back into bluegrass – and Shakespeare

‘We’re all racist to some degree,” says Rhiannon Giddens. “Just like we’re all privileged to some degree. I have privilege in my system because I’m light-skinned. I hear people say, ‘I didn’t have it easy growing up either.’ But when did it become a competition?”

As someone on a mission to bridge such divides, Giddens thinks about this stuff a lot. The Grammy-winning singer and songwriter was born to a white father and a black mother in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the late 1970s. Her parents married only three years after the landmark Loving v Virginia decision, which reversed the anti-miscegenation laws that had made interracial marriage illegal. Their union was still shocking enough that her father was disinherited.

While much has changed in the 40 years that Giddens has been alive, her latest album, Freedom Highway, is a powerful testament to the inequality and injustice that remain. It opens with At the Purchaser’s Option, a devastating track inspired by an 1830s advert for a female slave whose nine-month-old baby could also be included in the sale. “It was kind of a statement to put that one first,” says Giddens. “If you can get past that, you’ll probably survive the rest.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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In one of the most touching of many personal passages in the book, Akala retraces the steps by which he was racialised – as a mixed-race child – into blackness, and by which he realised that his mother, who fiercely protected her children’s pride in their heritage, enrolling them among other things in a Pan-African Saturday school, was racialised as white.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-05-30 02:56Z by Steven

Natives delivers the answers, and some of them are hard to hear. In one of the most touching of many personal passages in the book, Akala retraces the steps by which he was racialised – as a mixed-race child – into blackness, and by which he realised that his mother, who fiercely protected her children’s pride in their heritage, enrolling them among other things in a Pan-African Saturday school, was racialised as white.

Afua Hirsch, “Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala – review,” The Guardian, May 20, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/20/natives-akala-review-destroying-myths-of-race-afia-hirsch.

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Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala – review

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2018-05-28 14:39Z by Steven

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala – review

The Guardian
2018-05-20

Afua Hirsch

Akala on stage
Akala: ‘a disruptive, aggressive intellect’. Photograph: Rob Baker Ashton/BBC/Green Acre Films

In a powerful, polemical narrative, the rapper charts his past and the history of black Britain

In 2010, UK rap artist Akala dropped the album DoubleThink, and with it, some unforgettable words. “First time I saw knives penetrate flesh, it was meat cleavers to the back of the head,” the north London rapper remembers of his childhood. Like so much of his work, the song Find No Enemy blends his life in the struggle of poverty, race, class and violence, with the search for answers. “Apparently,” it continues, “I’m second-generation black Caribbean. And half white Scottish. Whatever that means.”

Any of the million-plus people who have since followed Akala – real name Kingslee Daley – know that the search has taken him into the realm of serious scholarship. He is now known as much for his political analysis as for his music, and, unsurprisingly, his new book, Natives, is therefore long awaited. What was that meat cleaver incident? What was his relationship with his family and peers like growing up? How did he make the journey from geeky child, to sullen and armed teenager, to writer, artist and intellectual?.

Natives delivers the answers, and some of them are hard to hear. In one of the most touching of many personal passages in the book, Akala retraces the steps by which he was racialised – as a mixed-race child – into blackness, and by which he realised that his mother, who fiercely protected her children’s pride in their heritage, enrolling them among other things in a Pan-African Saturday school, was racialised as white…

Read the entire article here.

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Akala: ‘As I grew up, I became embarrassed by my mother’s whiteness’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-05-27 20:13Z by Steven

Akala: ‘As I grew up, I became embarrassed by my mother’s whiteness’

The Guardian
2018-05-26

Akala (Kingslee James Daley)

Akala
Akala: ‘From that day, my relationship with my mother was not just that of mother and son, but of a white mother to a black son.’ Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Guardian

At five, the hip-hop poet was racially abused at school. Could his mother ever really understand?

One day in 1988, at the age of five, I returned home from school upset. My mum tried to work out why but I was reluctant to tell her. After some coaxing, I told her that a boy in the playground had called me a particularly nasty name. As I was about to spill the beans, a strange thing occurred. I said, “Mum, the white boy… ” and trailed off before I could complete the sentence. A profound realisation hit me. With a hint of terror and accusation, I said, “But you’re white, aren’t you, Mummy?”

Before this, my mum was just my mum, a flawless superhero, as any loving parent is in a five-year-old’s eyes. I sensed that something about that image was changing in the moment, something we could never take back. I wanted to un-ask the question. My mother’s expression was halfway between shock and resignation: she’d known this day would come, but the directness of the question still took her aback.

She thought for a moment and then, using one of her brilliant if unintentional psychological masterstrokes, replied something to the effect of: “Yes, I’m white, but I’m German and they’re English.” It didn’t matter that my mum was not really German – she was born in Germany but brought up in Hong Kong – or that I was technically English: my mum had created a safety valve for me, so that I could feel comfortable reporting racist abuse to her without having to worry that I was hurting her feelings. Even at five, I knew instinctively that whiteness, like all systems of power, preferred not to be interrogated…

Read the entire article here.

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Jesmyn Ward: ‘Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2018-05-19 22:54Z by Steven

Jesmyn Ward: ‘Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated’

The Guardian
2018-05-11

Lisa Allardice, Editor
Guardian Review

Jesmyn Ward: ‘I fought from the very beginning.’
Jesmyn Ward: ‘I fought from the very beginning.’ Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

The author of Sing, Unburied, Sing, had a tough childhood in Mississippi, survived Hurricane Katrina, and became the first woman to win two US national book awards for fiction

If Jesmyn Ward’s fiction tends towards the epic, that is maybe because her life has been marked by monumental events. “I fought from the very beginning”, she says. Born prematurely at just 26 weeks, she was badly attacked by her father’s pit bull as a small child, her younger brother was killed at 19, and, along with several generations of her family, she sheltered from Hurricane Katrina in a truck. Yet today she is the first woman to win the US national book award for fiction twice, hailed by a leading reviewer as “one of the most powerfully poetic writers in the country”. And on the morning we meet, it has just been announced that she has been shortlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction for her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ward’s subject is what it means to be poor and black in America’s rural south, where “life is a hurricane”. Modern Mississippi, she says, “means addiction, ground-in generational poverty, living very closely with the legacy of slavery, of Jim Crow, of lynching and of intractable racism”. In her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds (2008), she felt she “protected” her characters from these brutal realities, because she knew and cared about them too much: “So I kept pulling my punches. And later I realised that was a mistake. Life doesn’t spare the kind of people who I write about, so I felt like it would be dishonest to spare my characters in that way.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Markle effect: black women see the royal wedding as workplace inspiration

Posted in Articles, Economics, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2018-05-12 17:31Z by Steven

The Markle effect: black women see the royal wedding as workplace inspiration

The Guardian
2018-05-12

Rory Carroll, Shenelle Wallace and Edward Helmore

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Westminster Abbey in London on 25 April.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Westminster Abbey in London on 25 April. Photograph: Eddie Mulholland/AFP/Getty Images

As the royal wedding approaches, some are hoping it will lead to a greater acceptance of African American women in business

As final arrangements are set for the wedding of the US actor Meghan Markle to Prince Harry Windsor, hopes are mounting among some that the Markle effect will have unexpected impacts, including improving opportunities for African American women in the workplace.

“It’s exciting for black women, and I think it’s going to be inspirational,” said Camille Newman, a 38-year-old Brooklyn entrepreneur. Newman expressed deep-felt enthusiasm in the union as a symbolic marker for the acceptance of black or biracial women in society and said other women of color she knew felt the same way.

“We’re claiming her for a black woman’s right to be in there like everybody else,” she said.

One anticipated spin-off, she told the Guardian, could be the greater acceptance of black women across all sectors of society, including business. “As an entrepreneur I face so many challenges to find funding for my business. We’re going to claim her and look to her for inspiration as an African American entrepreneur,” she said…

Read the entire article here.

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“You can’t be a white Australian writer and spend your whole life ignoring the greatest, most important aspect of our history, and that is that we – I – have been the beneficiaries of a genocide.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-02-12 02:07Z by Steven

A Long Way from Home, Peter Carey’s 14th novel, uses the story of a light-skinned Indigenous Australian who has been brought up white to address the country’s brutal history of racism. It seems strange at first that Carey – surely Australia’s greatest living novelist, even if he hasn’t dwelled there for decades – has taken so long to get around to the subject. In a recent interview in the Australian, he said that he’d always felt that it was not the place of a white writer to tell this tale. Then something changed: “You can’t be a white Australian writer and spend your whole life ignoring the greatest, most important aspect of our history, and that is that we – I – have been the beneficiaries of a genocide.”

Alex Preston, “A Long Way from Home review – Peter Carey’s best novel in decades,” The Guardian, January 15, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/15/a-long-way-from-home-peter-carey-review.

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