Proposal for NYC Forms: Option to Identify as Multiracial

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-25 17:16Z by Steven

Proposal for NYC Forms: Option to Identify as Multiracial

The Wall Street Journal
2014-11-24

Mara Gay, City Hall Reporter

Legislation Being Introduced in City Council on Tuesday

New Yorkers would be able to identify as more than one race on city documents under legislation set to be introduced in the City Council on Tuesday.

“We just wanted to bring New York City into the 21st century,” said Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a Manhattan Democrat and the lead sponsor of the measure. “This will allow New Yorkers to identify their heritage and be proud of it. They shouldn’t have to only check one box.”

The city has the highest multiracial population in the country, with 325,901 people identifying as more than one race on the 2010 U.S. Census.

Right now, city forms that ask for information about race or ethnicity have five options: “white, not of Hispanic origin”; “black, not of Hispanic origin”; “Hispanic”; “Asian or Pacific Islander”; and “American Indian or Alaskan Native.”

The legislation could mean changes for dozens of city forms. Complaint forms with the New York City Commission on Human Rights would be changed under the bill, for example, as would applications at the Department of Small Business Services and at the New York City Housing Authority. Documents required of New York’s more than 300,000 city employees would also be affected…

…The bill, which is co-sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos and Councilman Corey Johnson, both Democrats, would require city agencies to have the capacity to maintain the new demographic information within three years of the bill becoming law…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Secret Falls From the Family Tree, and a Girl’s Identity Branches Out

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-11-25 16:48Z by Steven

A Secret Falls From the Family Tree, and a Girl’s Identity Branches Out

The New York Times
2014-11-23

Ben Kenigsberg, Film Critic

‘Little White Lie,’ a Personal Documentary About Race

The documentary “Little White Lie” would be provocative simply for what it says about race and identity. The director Lacey Schwartz grew up Jewish in Woodstock, N.Y., yet something seemed off. Her peers would ask if she was adopted. At Ms. Schwartz’s bat mitzvah, a member of her synagogue assumed she was an Ethiopian Jew. Her family attributed her darker skin to a Sicilian great-grandfather. Only gradually did Ms. Schwartz, now 37, begin to suspect what might seem obvious to an outsider: that her biological father was black.

“Little White Lie” is, in part, the story of Ms. Schwartz’s evolving view of her background. As a child, she thought of herself as white and even wished for a lighter complexion. College changed that: Although she didn’t declare a race on her application, she says Georgetown considered her a black student based on a photograph. She was welcomed by the Black Student Alliance and began to experience the influence that race has on everyday life.

That shift in perspective might be startling enough, but the movie goes one step further by charting the effect that Ms. Schwartz’s transformation has on her family members and the awkward sense in which her embrace of a biracial identity might be seen as a repudiation of them. The film is a searing portrait of collective denial — a diagnosis from which Ms. Schwartz doesn’t exempt herself…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , ,

Queridos Blanquitos: The Hidden Racism of Nuestra América

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-24 01:04Z by Steven

Queridos Blanquitos: The Hidden Racism of Nuestra América

NACLA Report on the Americas
New York, New York
2014-11-19

Ed Morales
Columbia University, New York, New York

In Justin Simien’s debut film Dear White People, a passing comment about Puerto Ricans exposes the contradictory status of mixed-race people in the “post-racial” Americas.

There is a moment in Dear White People, a film that is drawing a lot of attention for its frank treatment of “post-racial” America—particularly in Ivy League universities—that made me laugh, although I felt not many in the theater got the joke the way I did. It was during a voiceover dialog during which the protagonist Sam’s African-American suitor was musing that he thought at first that she was “Puerto Rican” because of her lighter skin and superior attitude. Sam is a mixed-race filmmaker and agitator who is constantly angry over “micro-aggressions” she endures every day on campus, and is determined to put the brakes on all forms of neo-racism, period…

…In an Ivy League university a mulata is an exotic character, charged with a social and sexual ambivalence that is hard to resolve in quotidian campus interactions. Sam, reflecting on this, suffered the crisis of being accompanied by her white father to grade school when she was a child–the desire to separate herself to avoid confusion that resulted from noticing how people looked at her curiously–what is that white man doing with that black girl?  Other scenes find Sam grappling with being an object of sexual desire and political solidarity with white and black lovers, with all of this seemingly just adding to her quiet agony…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Let’s Talk About Race (in Latin@ Communities)

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-24 00:43Z by Steven

Let’s Talk About Race (in Latin@ Communities)

NACLA Report on the Americas
New York, New York
2014-10-16

Melissa M. Valle, Ph.D. candidate
Columbia University, New York, New York

While many trivialize race in Latin@ communities as abstract and irrelevant, Afro-Latin@s are still fighting a definitive racial hierarchy.

They say that the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he didn’t exist. While I’m not a religious person, I find something alarming about the notion that a sinister force is exacting its will on humanity while successfully going undetected, and therefore uncontested. Racism in Latin America has a similar invisible, but insidious, sort of quality.

Bring up racism amongst those from Latin America and you’ll often get an exasperated groan, followed by something about how class is the predominate stratifying principle in Latin America, and a plea to stop applying your U.S.-based take on race to those in Latin America and the Caribbean. They may even throw in a “we’re all mixed” or “what is race?” rejoinder for good measure.

They will likely bring up the fluidity of racial boundaries as a way of suggesting that the struggles around this form of discrimination have their own set of particularities when in a different setting like Latin America, and that these particularities absolve them from dealing with contradictory experiences of Afro-Latin@s that reveal a peculiarly hidden racism.

Fortunately, there are now numerous organizations and scholars carrying out the tireless work of bringing to light, documenting, and challenging the cumulative effects of centuries of oppression that continue to negatively impact the lives of millions of Afro-Latin@s. Recognizing the need for a critical analysis of the social reality of African-descended people from Latin America, local activists and scholars led by Juan Flores and Miriam Jiménez Román founded the afrolatin@ forum in New York in 2007. It was a moving experience to serve on the executive board of the forum in New York City in 2011 and help coordinate its first conference, “Afro-Latin@s Now!: Strategies for Visibility and Action.” The afrolatin@ forum is committed to advancing an understanding of the afrolatin@ experience in the United States and abroad. But on a personal level it has also heightened an understanding of racial marginalization and resistance for me and many of my co-organizers. Working with this collective, I feel my own identity as an Afro-Latina and scholar-activist has been affirmed.

This October’s second afrolatin@ forum conference, “Afro-Latin@s Now: Race Counts!” will provide a space to examine the structural and ideological barriers to full Afro-Latin@ representation and discuss opportunities for positive social change. The event will focus specifically on how race structures the life chances of Latin@s of African descent and how it is therefore critical that our experiences be shared and our numbers be counted in the census…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

AN OCTOROON: THE OCTOROON an essay by James Leverett

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-23 20:38Z by Steven

AN OCTOROON: THE OCTOROON an essay by James Leverett

The Soho Repository
New York, New York
2014-04-01

James Leverett, Professor (Adjunct) of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism
Yale School of Drama

There is melodrama in every tragedy, just as there is a child in every adult.”
–Eric Bentley, Life of the Drama

A Suggested Walk

I hope by this point you’ve already purchased your ticket for An Octoroon. I also hope that it is a nice evening when you attend, and that you will want to discuss and extend your experience of the production afterwards… Or you may also just want to sweep it out of you mind…In either case, when the show is over, take a left when you leave Soho Rep., go along Walker Street a half block to the corner, take another left onto Broadway and walk north across Canal, through Soho, across Houston into Noho (cartography gets murky here), and across Bleeker. Slow your pace and go over to the east side of Broadway if you haven’t already. Your aim is to get a better view of what’s on the west side of the street (or used to be). I hope you will look up at the spectacular 19th-century cast-iron architecture all along your tour…

The Octoroon

After Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel of 1852, together with an immediate procession of stage versions), The Octoroon is the most prominent contemporary fiction about American slavery. In many ways, Boucicault’s play fits the pattern of Victorian melodrama. Zoë, the Octoroon, is the suffering heroine, although much more strongly drawn than her Gothic predecessors. Originally played by Agnes Robertson, at the time Boucicault’s wife, she chooses her own destiny, even though hers is the fate of a victim. The unmistakable villain is Jacob M’Closky, undoubtedly modeled after Stowe’s lustful, murderous Simon Legree. Both characters are from the North, both end up in Louisiana, both are in the market for slaves. George Peyton, the romantic lead, is brave and central to the plot but recedes somewhat in the presence of the others.

As with most Victorian melodramas, The Octoroon, has a large supporting cast. Most of them are there, not only to help along the plot, but also to add variety to a popular entertainment. They are part of the newspaper aspect of the genre and create a world containing a range of social classes, ages, occupations, localities and nationalities.

Most pertinent to this play are races, particularly those of African descent, and they are represented with unprecedented specificity. In addition to the octoroon (one eighth black), there are in the cast list a quadroon (one fourth), a yellow (mixed race), and Whanotee, an Indian chief of the “Lepan” tribe (probably a misspelling of the Lipan Apache). Boucicault himself played the chief. His well known mimetic ability surely helped him to negotiate the character who, when not altogether silent, speaks a fictional “mashup” of French, Mexican and what is supposedly his native dialect, which includes “ugh.” Most of the supporting characters also have some comic function, which is fundamental in most melodrama. Scholars consider the genre to exist between tragedy and comedy, but leaning toward the latter, especially because of the almost inevitable happy endings…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

‘Did Somebody Say “Mulatto”?’ Speaking Critically on Mixed Heritage

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-23 19:51Z by Steven

‘Did Somebody Say “Mulatto”?’ Speaking Critically on Mixed Heritage

The Huffington Post
The Blog
2014-11-21

A. B. Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Photograph: Ken Tanabe

One of the main characters in the award-winning film Dear White People is a mixed “black and white” college student who works to make sense of her life and relationships. The movie addresses several thought-provoking subjects, and the storyline around this character raises the question: Should people of mixed heritage have to choose one part of their ancestry over another?

From Nov. 13 to Nov. 15, over 600 people came together at DePaul University in Chicago to explore this question and other issues surrounding ideas of race, perceptions of racial mixture, and the experiences of mixed-heritage people. The goal of the 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, titled “Global Mixed Race,” was to “bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines around the world to facilitate a conversation about the transnational, transdisciplinary, and transracial field of Critical Mixed Race Studies.”

As the number of people who identify as “mixed” increases, discussions around various topics concerning people of mixed ancestry are also expanding and challenging our perceptions of race and racism. Both critical mixed-race studies and films like Dear White People accomplish the same goal of furthering conversations regarding race — dialogues that we can engage in with friends, family, and those in our communities at large…

…CMRS Asks: Is There a “Global Mixed Race”?

Activists, artists, and scholars who compose critical mixed-race studies (CMRS) are complicating questions beyond “What are you?” and combating the myth of the “tragic mulatta/o.” In past decades, CMRS has expanded over a number of academic fields spanning several disciplines.

While CMRS has fought over the years to gain legitimacy within scholarly circles, one of its greatest attributes is that the coalition is not made up of solely academics but includes community activists, students, educators, families, visual artists, independent filmmakers, and others interested in the varied experiences of mixed-heritage peoples. Of course, not all these categories are mutually exclusive, as many of the activists, artists, etc., are also scholars.

Laura Kina and Camilla Fojas of DuPaul University organized the third CMRS conference, “Global Mixed Race,” which featured a variety of people telling their own stories, sharing the stories of others, and dissecting theories that surround notions of ethnoracial mixture.* In the opening keynote address, sociologist Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, co-editor of the book Global Mixed Race, explored the idea of a “mixed experience,” where she discussed the commonalities that people of mixed descent share widely across the globe.

King-O’Riain noted that people of mixed heritage have had to learn how to live and operate within their respective societies, often finding themselves ostracized by individuals within their local communities and battling exclusive national definitions of citizenship. King-O’Riain explained that people of mixed ancestry therefore have often had to skillfully create a flexible hybrid identity, one where they develop a keen ability to operate among several groups…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Returning to an ‘Impossible’ Role

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-23 19:27Z by Steven

Returning to an ‘Impossible’ Role

The New York Times
2014-04-23

Alexis Soloski

Amber Gray on ‘An Octoroon,’ at Soho Rep

Leaning against an upright piano, Amber Gray bent her voice and body to a song’s harmonies — tapping her feet, drumming her fingers, bowing her head, and turtling her chin forward and back.

A restless, dynamic performer, Ms. Gray recently appeared as the scheming Hélène in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” She was now rehearsing for a much more innocent role: the title character of “An Octoroon” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

A disquieting adaptation of Dion Boucicault’s controversial 1859 melodrama, which opens on May 4 at Soho Rep, the play centers on a tragic love affair between the heir to a Louisiana plantation and Ms. Gray’s Zoe. Though raised as a decorous Southern lady, Zoe is one-eighth black, an inheritance that condemns her to the slave auction block.

After her musical rehearsal at the New 42nd Street Studios, Ms. Gray, who has the sort of careless glamour that can make a Baja jacket and acid-washed jeans seem very nearly elegant, retired to a futon in the green room. She spoke with Alexis Soloski about terrifying musicals, biracial identity and playing a difficult scene. These are excerpts from the conversation…

…What was it like to grow up as a biracial child overseas?

I was too young to really understand a lot of it. In the military school systems, kids were mean. People would call me mulatto all the time. My dad was like: “Don’t let people call you that. Say that you’re mixed. Say that you’re biracial.” My parents were really careful with me. They were clear that you can’t separate out the two sides. You’d be denying half of yourself if you did.

Before you became involved with “An Octoroon,” did you read the 1859 version?

I did. I got really emotional reading it. It struck a chord. Most other mixed and biracial people I know have at least one secret or lie in their family, have at least one person who is choosing to pass or is passing and doesn’t even know it. That theme is so common. I have a half sister who didn’t know she was half black until she was 11. I’m interested in telling these stories because it is my family’s history…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Racial divide: It’s a social concept, not a scientific one

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-11-23 17:43Z by Steven

Racial divide: It’s a social concept, not a scientific one

The Washington Post
2014-11-03

Nancy Szokan

Most scientists agree that race is not a biological concept.

As Wikipedia defines it, in an extremely lengthy and extravagantly footnoted entry that surely has been edited and re-edited many times, “Race is a social concept used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, and/or social affiliation.”

Yet race undoubtedly affects government policies, pervades our social interactions, creates alliances and sets off wars.

We are asked to specify our race (or races) on census forms, medical questionnaires, job applications, college applications, opinion surveys and so on — and the very act of asking the question, sometimes to be answered by just checking a box, can seem to imply that there is a clearly definable, provable answer.

As Robert Wald Sussman puts it in “The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea,” many if not most people would be surprised to learn that race is a social rather than a scientific construct. In his new book, Sussman, a professor of physical anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, explores how race emerged as a modern social construct, tracing its origins to the Spanish Inquisition and its legacy as a justification for Western imperialism and slavery…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , ,

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-23 17:08Z by Steven

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

The New York Times
2014-05-04

Ben Brantley, Chief Theater Critic

‘An Octoroon,’ a Slave-Era Tale at Soho Rep

Some people are paralyzed by self-consciousness. The playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is inspired, energized and perhaps even set free by it.

You could say that he transforms self-consciousness into art, except then you have to ask what art is, as Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins surely would. How about into entertainment, then? No, that sounds too unequivocally pleasurable and guilt free. Well, let’s just say that Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins turns self-consciousness into theater, and that this is a lot more stimulating than it sounds.

Some degree of self-consciousness is inevitable for any latter-day dramatist taking on Dion Boucicault’sThe Octoroon,” which is what Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins is doing in the exhilarating, booby-trapped production called “An Octoroon” (those articles make a difference!) that opened at Soho Rep on Sunday night. Though a huge hit in this country in the mid-19th century, “The Octoroon” would appear approachable on today’s stages only with a set of very long, sterilized tongs.

It is, first of all, an unabashed melodrama, with all the handkerchief wringing and mustache twirling that term implies. The story it relates is an incident-crammed weepy of forbidden love in the slaveholding South, where social status is measured in drops of blood. (Octoroon refers to someone who is one-eighth black.)…

…The basic plot of this “Octoroon” is Boucicault’s, more or less. Its title character is the beauteous Zoe (Amber Gray of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”), the daughter of a slave and a recently deceased plantation owner. Zoe is beloved both by the plantation’s worldly and gentlemanly new owner, George (Mr. Myers), and by its former overseer, the evil M’Closkey (Mr. Myers again), who wants to buy the place for himself.

That’s Plot A (or most of it; I didn’t mention the local rich girl, played in high burlesque style by Zoë Winters, loves George, too). There’s a Plot B, but I won’t go into detail about that one, except to say that it involves a lovable rapscallion of a slave boy (Ben Horner, in blackface) and his pal, an American Indian, I mean Native American or … heck, I’m all tongue-tied now. Anyway, he’s played by Mr. Wolohan, in redface.

Oh, relax. It’s only a play, isn’t it? Except one of Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins’s points is that nothing that deals with race in this racially conflicted country can ever be reduced to an easy showbiz formula, whether satirical or uplifting. His “Octoroon” invites us to laugh loudly and easily at how naïve the old stereotypes now seem, until suddenly nothing seems funny at all…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , ,

‘A Chosen Exile,’ by Allyson Hobbs [Senna Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-11-22 03:00Z by Steven

‘A Chosen Exile,’ by Allyson Hobbs [Senna Review]

The New York Times
Sunday Book Review
2014-11-21

Danzy Senna

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life By Allyson Hobbs; Illustrated. 382 pp. Harvard University Press. $29.95.

One of the best birthday presents anybody ever gave me was a “calling card” by the conceptual artist Adrian Piper. I was in college at the time, and it felt like the ultimate inside joke handed from one racially ambiguous person to another.

Slim and innocuous as a business card, it reads: “Dear Friend, I am black. I am sure you did not realize this when you made/laughed at/agreed with that racist remark. In the past I have attempted to alert people to my identity in advance. . . . I regret any discomfort my presence is causing you, just as I’m sure you regret the discomfort your racism is causing me.”

To be black but to be perceived as white is to find yourself, at times, in a racial no man’s land. It is to feel like an embodiment of W. E. B. Du Bois’s double consciousness — that sense of being in two places at the same time. It is also to be perpetually aware of both the primacy of race and the “bankruptcy of the race idea,” as Allyson Hobbs, an assistant professor of history at Stanford University, puts it in her incisive new cultural history, “A Chosen Exile.”

Hobbs is interested in the stories of individuals who chose to cross the color line — black to white — from the late 1800s up through the 1950s. It’s a story we’ve of course read and seen before in fictional accounts — numerous novels and films that have generally portrayed mixed-race characters in the sorriest of terms. Like gay characters, mulattoes always pay for their existence dearly in the end. Joe Christmas, the tormented drifter in William Faulkner’sLight in August,” considers his blackness evidence of original sin (a.k.a. miscegenation) and ends up castrated and murdered. Sarah Jane, a character in Douglas Sirk’s 1959 remake of the film “Imitation of Life,” denies her black mother in her attempt to be seen as white. Her tragedy once again feels like mixed fate. As her long-suffering mother puts it, “How do you tell a child that she was born to be hurt?”…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,