I’m Black. I’m White. I’m Both. I’m Neither.

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-23 00:23Z by Steven

I’m Black. I’m White. I’m Both. I’m Neither.

GPB Blogs: On Second Thought
Georgia Public Broadcasting
Atlanta, Georgia
2015-05-20

Celeste Headlee

I’m black.
My grandfather is William Grant Still, the “Dean of African-American composers.” His skin was the color of maple syrup. Mine is the color of café au lait. My grandfather suffered countless indignities and injustices because of his color. I remember them still, almost viscerally. They still feel personal to me.

When he was going to Oberlin College to accept an honorary degree, he drove from Los Angeles with his family. He couldn’t stay at the white hotels because he was black; he couldn’t stay at the black hotels because his wife was white. So he drove 2,300 miles without stopping. In photos of the event, he’s stooping; he looks exhausted. I’ve heard that story dozens of times, and yet, my cheeks feel hot thinking about it even now. It still makes me angry.

My grandparents had to get married in Tijuana because their marriage was illegal in the US. That’s personal. He had to build a six-foot fence around his home to protect my mother and her brother from violence. It was the 1940s and people were dragging mixed-race families out of their beds, beating them, sometimes setting their homes on fire. I look at my mother sometimes and think about how lucky I am.

I have the same amount of black ancestry as Sally Hemings, slave to Thomas Jefferson and mother to six of his children. (Side note: three of those children lived their adult lives as white. They passed.)

I was the second-darkest kid in my school in Mission Viejo, California. Everyone expected me to be best friends with Shawna, the only African-American girl. Kids called me a “nigger” sometimes. I punched one of them in the eye and was sent to the principal’s office. The principal told me that if someone called me that name, I should punch them again.

I’m white…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama’s Twitter Debut, @POTUS, Attracts Hate-Filled Posts

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-05-22 01:36Z by Steven

Obama’s Twitter Debut, @POTUS, Attracts Hate-Filled Posts

The New York Times
2015-05-21

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — When President Obama sent his inaugural Twitter post from the Oval Office on Monday, the White House heralded the event with fanfare, posting a photograph of him perched on his desk tapping out his message on an iPhone.

The @POTUS account — named for the in-house acronym derived from “President of the United States” — would “serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him,” a White House aide wrote that day.

But it took only a few minutes for Mr. Obama’s account to attract racist, hate-filled posts and replies. They addressed him with racial slurs and called him a monkey. One had an image of the president with his neck in a noose.

The posts reflected the racial hostility toward the nation’s first black president that has long been expressed in stark terms on the Internet, where conspiracy theories thrive and prejudices find ready outlets. But the racist Twitter posts are different because now that Mr. Obama has his own account, the slurs are addressed directly to him, for all to see.

Within minutes of Mr. Obama’s first, cheerful post — “Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really!” it began — Twitter users lashed out in sometimes profanity-laced replies that included exhortations for the president to kill himself and worse.

One person posted a doctored image of Mr. Obama’s famous campaign poster, instead showing the president with his head in a noose, his eyes closed and his neck appearing broken as if he had been lynched. Instead of the word “HOPE” in capital letters as it appeared on the campaign poster, the doctored image had the words “ROPE.”…

…Top advisers to Mr. Obama, who pioneered the use of technology in his campaigns, regard such hate speech as a relatively minor price to pay for the opportunity Twitter and other platforms provide to reach voters directly. Twitter, which has been criticized for not cracking down on so-called trolls who post abusive or inappropriate comments on the social networking platform, does not police individual users or initiate its own action against them…

Read the entire article here.

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This Mocha-Caramel-Honey Post-Racial Fantasy Is Making Me Sick

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Work, United States, Women on 2015-05-21 16:53Z by Steven

This Mocha-Caramel-Honey Post-Racial Fantasy Is Making Me Sick

BuzzFeed
2015-05-21

Sharon Chang, BuzzFeed Contributor


Illustration by Judith Kim for BuzzFeed

As a mixed-race woman, the defining question of my life has not been “Who am I?” but “What are you?” I get it everywhere, from all races. Recently it’s been mostly from Asian immigrants. You Chinese? Last month a black guy walked up to me while I was pumping gas. Man! How do you people do that international thing?

It’s an invasive line of questioning, under the guise of a friendly compliment. “You know how you could look more Asian?” my white boss once asked as I clocked out of work. “If you cut your bangs like this and did your makeup like this…” My acupuncturist, meanwhile, thinks I look more Asian in a ponytail.

Most women are accustomed to having their physical appearance treated like public property up for consumption. But when it comes to mixed-race women, our looks are quantified, measured and divvied up, all the way back to conception. How we were cooked up, what our ingredients are, and why we taste so good — people are entitled to know all of it…

…If 2050 is the year that 400 years of racism ends in one fell, photogenic swoop, then sure, I can’t wait. But forgive me if our collective crushes on Rashida Jones, Lolo Jones, and Norah Jones don’t inspire hope. Beauty is a cultural value whose definition has changed dramatically over time. But science and society have a long history of justifying our shifting tastes when it comes to race. White supremacy has been bolstered through race-based compulsory sterilization, anti-miscegenation laws, and likening people of color to animals…

Read the entire article here.

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The Great American Mulatto: Mat Johnson Talks Identity and Facing Ghosts

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive on 2015-05-21 01:43Z by Steven

The Great American Mulatto: Mat Johnson Talks Identity and Facing Ghosts

Gawker Review of Books
2015-05-20

Victor LaValle

Mat Johnson and I have been friends since we published our first books fifteen years ago. In that time we’ve spent an untold number of hours bullshitting about writing, parenting, and sundry nonsense. Mat’s new novel, Loving Day—which will be released by Spiegel & Grau on May 26—is the story of a mixed-race comic book artist who returns from Wales to his native Philadelphia to discover a daughter he never knew he’d fathered, a mixed-race cult that hopes to recruit him, and a pair of ghosts haunting his father’s home. Our conversation appears below.

Victor LaValle: Germantown’s Finest, what’s going on?

Mat Johnson: I’m sweating my ass of in Houston Fucking Texas is what’s going on. It’s like Philly in July but for six months down here.

VL: That’s going to ruin your image as a writer. Your Twitter profile photo makes you look like an elegant leg breaker, not a sweating goon.

MJ: Breaking legs builds moisture in your arm pits. I am rugged fiction writer man. I make my own paper from the pulp I chew off trees, man…

VL: Art versus entertainment makes sense as a kind of push/pull in lit fiction, but in the new book you’ve added a third ingredient. Outrage. Some motherfuckers are going to be outraged by what you’ve put in this book. Black, white, mixed. It’s possible you’ve even defamed ghosts with one of the subplots.

MJ: I like being scared when I’m writing. I enjoy building to the moment where I’m like, I can’t believe I’m putting this on the page. All of Loving Day was like this. Growing up mulatto, looking white but being black. In the black community I never talked about being mixed. I was too busy overcompensating to fit in.

Writing this book I kept thinking, black people are going to hate that I’m even talking about this, mixed people are going to be annoyed about the way I’m talking about it, and white people aren’t going to know what the hell it is I’m even talking about. Shit, I’m still scared…

 

Read the entire interview here.

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Who is Ismael Ozanne, Wisconsin’s prosecutor in Tony Robinson’s death?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Law, United States on 2015-05-20 21:52Z by Steven

Who is Ismael Ozanne, Wisconsin’s prosecutor in Tony Robinson’s death?

Cable News Network (CNN)
2015-05-12

Michael Martinez, Newsdesk Editor & Writer

(CNN) Ismael Ozanne wiped a handkerchief across his forehead, nervously tapped a stack of papers on the podium and slowly cleared his throat.

It wasn’t the first time he’d made history; that happened in 2010 when he became Wisconsin’s first black district attorney.

Still, the Dane County district attorney seemed acutely aware of his role on the national stage Tuesday as the man who would decide whether an officer should be charged for the March 6 shooting death of an unarmed biracial man, 19-year-old Tony Robinson.

Eventually, Ozanne told reporters that he’d cleared Matt Kenny of the Madison Police Department, declaring that the officer’s gunfire was “a lawful use of deadly police force.”

But before he revealed his long-awaited decision Tuesday, the prosecutor also made it a point to talk about his past…

…Wisconsin’s first black DA

Ozanne became the first African-American district attorney in Wisconsin history in August 2010, when former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, appointed him as Dane County district attorney.

Ozanne’s appointment filled a vacancy created when the prior DA was elected as a Court of Appeals judge…

…Ozanne’s grandfather, Robert Ozanne, was a high school teacher, a labor organizer, an author and a professor of economics at University of Wisconsin at Madison in the 1950s, according to Ismael Ozanne’s biography.

His parents are also teachers: His father taught at Tuskegee University in Alabama and in Madison public schools, and as of last year, his mother was still in the classroom, teaching reading at a middle school.

Ozanne describes himself as biracial.

“I’m a person of color from a biracial marriage. … I am the son of a black woman who still worries about my safety from the bias and privilege and violence that accompanies it,” he said Tuesday…

Read the entire article here.

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Proving My Blackness

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-19 18:24Z by Steven

Proving My Blackness

The New York Times Magazine
2015-05-24

Mat Johnson

I grew up a black boy who looked like a white one. My parents divorced when I was 4, and I was raised mostly by my black mom, in a black neighborhood of Philadelphia, during the Black Power movement. I put my dashiki on one arm at a time like every other black boy, but I was haunted by the moments I’d be out with my mother and other black people would look at me as if I were a cuckoo egg accidentally dropped in their nest. The contrast between “blackness” and how I looked was so stark that I often found myself sifting through archaic, pre-20th-century African-American racial definitions to find a word that fit me. Mulatto, 50 percent African. Quadroon, 25 percent African. Octoroon, 12.5 percent African. The next stop down, at 6.25 percent African, was mustefino. I’d never heard anyone call himself mustefino, and I didn’t want to personally relaunch that brand.

Some people wondered why, in a society that represses black people, I would even want to be black. But I never wanted to be black. I was black. What I wanted was to retain my connection to my heritage, my community, my family. To my mom. And I wanted proof. So last summer, after exhausting my attempt at amateur genealogy, I spit into a test tube for a DNA test. Only then did I realize, in a panic, that my life of racial ambiguity would soon be over…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama tweets, and a million follow: ‘It’s Barack. Really!’

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-05-19 17:47Z by Steven

Obama tweets, and a million follow: ‘It’s Barack. Really!’

Reuters
2015-05-18

Roberta Rampton, White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama sent his first tweet from his very own account on Twitter on Monday, quickly amassing a million followers in five hours, the latest of many White House efforts to amplify his message with social media.

Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account,” Obama tweeted from his verified @POTUS account.

A Twitter spokesman could not immediately confirm whether Obama had set a record. According to Guinness World Records, the fastest pace to a million followers was set by actor Robert Downey Jr. in 23 hours and 22 minutes in April 2014.

Obama and his advisers pioneered the use of social media like Twitter and Facebook in the 2008 presidential campaign and have embraced their use in the White House as well.

As media attention has increasing shifted toward the 2016 presidential campaign, the White House has boosted its use of social media to break and shape news…

Read the entire article here.

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That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia by Arica L. Coleman (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Virginia on 2015-05-19 01:21Z by Steven

That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia by Arica L. Coleman (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 46, Number 1, Summer 2015
pages 126-127

Kirt von Daacke, Professor of History
University of Virginia

Coleman, Arica L., That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013)

This provocative new study engages history, anthropology, ethnic studies, and English literature as it charts “the history and legacy of Virginia’s effort to maintain racial purity and the consequences of this almost four hundred-year effort for African American–Native American relations and kinship bonds” (xv). The first four chapters attempt to set the 400-year history of Native American–black interaction in the context of the development of a racist ideology privileging white over black. The final three chapters conduct three case studies of twentieth- and twenty-first century events “regarding the social interactions of Black–Indian peoples and the ways in which Virginia Indians of African descent negotiate[d] the complex terrain of race and identity” (15).

Coleman’s interdisciplinary approach provides distinctly uneven results. She never convincingly connects that pre-1865 history with the ugly period after the passage of the Racial Integrity Act in 1924. The problems arise early. For example, Coleman claims that free people of color from the West Indies emigrated to Virginia in the wake of the start of the Haitian Revolution, but she offers no evidence other than a single citation in a secondary source about a white Virginian’s complaint that slaves became more restive after interacting with the slaves of white Haitian refugees (32). How can Armstrong Archer’s 1844 antislavery pamphlet, containing second-hand recollections about his father’s experiences in the eighteenth century, provide any sort of “exceptional insights into seventeenth century Indian–White relations from the perspective of the indigenous population” (36)? Coleman also rather uncritically accepts Archer’s pamphlet as the voice of a person who self-identified first as a Native American (36).

The second chapter focuses on the “changing state of Black–Indian relations in the nineteenth century,” using Omi and Winant’s post–Civil Rights era racial-formation theory as the foundation for its argument (64). Coleman never addresses why a theoretical model explaining the process of racial formation in the late twentieth century remains an appropriate model for understanding events of the nineteenth century. This chapter is also built upon a thin evidentiary base. It may well be that “Indians continued to be bought and sold” in Virginia after 1682, but interpreting a handful of notices stating that a runaway slave “ha[d] much the look of an Indian,” that another was “attempting to inveigle away a number of negroes to the new or Indian country,” or that yet another “had on him a new Indian blanket” as clear evidence of Native Americans on the slave market remains unconvincing (75–76). Coleman cites only five judicial cases from 1772 to 1827 in arguing that in the nineteenth century, “It became increasingly difficult to sue for freedom using the American Indian ancestress defense” (77). Furthermore, citing only two Works Progress Administration interviews from a single state remains insufficient proof that “numerous slave narratives bear witness to American Indian slavery” (79).

That weak evidentiary base resurfaces frequently when Coleman references pre-1900 Virginia or when in the midst of a provocative condemnation of the Virginia Council on Indians (VCI). For example, free people of color may have often noted Indian ancestry in claiming free status, but this assertion goes completely uncited (192). Later, Coleman asserts that Nottoway tribal members in 2007 “were well aware of the VCI’s unwritten criteria of racial purity,” but she provides no compelling evidence of the unwritten criteria and no evidence about what the Nottoway tribe might have known (219).

Despite these flaws, That the Blood Stay Pure represents a bold attempt to re-conceptualize how we think about Native American racial identity in the context of both a four-century history of racism and the modern era of tribal recognition and identity politics…

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The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-05-18 16:52Z by Steven

The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 46, Number 1, Summer 2015
pages 109-111

Ruth Clifford Engs, Professor Emeritus of Applied Health Science
Indiana University, Bloomington

Sussman, Robert Wald, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Sussman’s stated purpose in the introduction to this book is to “describe the history of our myth of race and racism” (3). However, a few pages later, he admits that he has not done archival research himself but instead has “depended upon the published works of many historians, biographers, and philosophers” (9). In other words, he is basing his premises upon secondary sources that may have their own biases. He does not present a hypothesis or even a research question but boldly states what he is trying to find and backs up his thesis with interpretations that support it. This methodology could be considered historiographical research. However, rarely does he compare the interpretation of one historian with that of another in an objective manner or compare interpretations from one time period to those from another, as other historiographical researchers usually do. Researchers in the past, or present, who do not agree with his conclusions are considered “racists” or part of “the eugenic bigot brigade.” The research methods in Sussman’s work cannot be deemed historical precisely because it uses few primary sources.

Sussman suggests that for a number of years, most researchers in the fields of biology, anthropology, and genetics have agreed that biological “races” do not exist among modern humans and that race is a cultural construct, albeit with phenotypical differences among population groups. In this work, you “can’t tell a book by its cover” or, in this case, its title, since the book’s main emphasis is the evolution of the nineteenth-century hereditarian and early twentieth-century eugenics movements and its leaders and detractors into contemporary times. The book focuses on what Sussman perceives to be “racist” researchers and organizations—those who suggest the possibility of biological differences between human population groups. It glorifies the anthropological school of Franz Boas and discusses the hidden agenda of obscure philanthropic groups to re-institute immigration-restriction reform or rescind voting rights from minorities in contemporary American society.

Chapter I introduces two early concepts of race since the Middle Ages that recur throughout the book—the pre-Adamite (polygenism) and degenerate (monogenism) theories. The pre-Adamites believed that races, other than whites, were created before Adam and Eve and that they were biologically fixed. Degenerate theory suggested that environment influenced “racial” characteristics, and that all humans were created by God, though non-whites were inferiors who needed guidance from whites. The chapter discusses the many early eighteenth-and nineteenth-century scientists and thinkers who embraced these various theories, including John Locke, Carl Linnaeus, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Arthur de Gobineau, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, and Francis Galton, among others.

Chapter 2 and 3 detail the early twentieth-century, American eugenics movement with a focus on various leaders, including Madison Grant, Charles Davenport, Henry Osborn, Harry Laughlin, and Henry Goddard, discussing their influence on the immigration-restriction movement, iq tests, and negative eugenics, characterized by sterilization. Sussman also covers such organizations as the Eugenics Records Office and the Galton Society, as well as international eugenic conferences and related issues. In his opinion, the entire eugenics movement amounts to “blatant racism” (85). He is silent about the fact that many aspects of the eugenics movement were intertwined with early twentieth-century public-health measures that sought to improve the health of the American people—regardless of ethnicity—by raising public awareness of tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and alcohol/drug abuse and by promoting exercise, clean water, good nutrition, personal hygiene, healthy children, immunization, etc.

Chapter 4, in which Sussman shows the interlinking of American with German eugenics, portrays the various leaders of the German eugenics movement, including Ernst Rüdin, Eugen Fischer, Fritz Lenz, Alfred Ploetz, and Otmar von Verschurer, through the end of Nazi Germany and World War II. Chapter 5 treats Boas’ development of the concept of culture and its effect on human populations. Chapter 6 goes into greater detail about cultural anthropology and covers the conflict between various schools of thought, each side accusing the other of not doing true science.

The remainder of the book examines the downfall of the eugenics movement in the United States and the acceptance of culture…

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The Case for Black Doctors

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-18 02:19Z by Steven

The Case for Black Doctors

The New York Times
2015-05-15

Damon Tweedy, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. — IN virtually every field of medicine, black patients as a group fare the worst. This was one of my first and most painful lessons as a medical student nearly 20 years ago.

The statistics that made my stomach cramp back then are largely the same today: The infant mortality rate in the black population is twice that of whites. Black men are seven times more likely than white men to receive a diagnosis of H.I.V. and more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer. Black women have nearly double the obesity rate of white women and are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. Black people experience much higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and stroke. The list goes on and on.

The usual explanations for these health disparities — poverty, poor access to medical care and unhealthy lifestyle choices, to name a few — are certainly valid, but the longer I’ve practiced medicine, the more I’ve come to appreciate a factor that is less obvious: the dearth of black doctors. Only around 5 percent of practicing physicians are black, compared with more than 13 percent of Americans overall.

As a general rule, black patients are more likely to feel comfortable with black doctors. Studies have shown that they are more likely to seek them out for treatment, and to report higher satisfaction with their care. In addition, more black doctors practice in high-poverty communities of color, where physicians are relatively scarce…

…Another time, I worked with a young woman who struggled with her biracial identity. Her black father had been abusive to her white mother when she was a child, and she found herself both afraid of and hostile toward black men. Because she physically resembled her father in many ways, she had also turned these negative feelings inward. Not surprisingly, her initial impression of me was unfavorable, but a friend encouraged her to come back to see me…

Read the entire review here.

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