My body is not an apology: Race, Representation & Beauty by Emma Dabiri

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2015-04-24 20:05Z by Steven

My body is not an apology: Race, Representation & Beauty by Emma Dabiri

Thandie Kay

Emma Dabiri, Teaching Fellow
Africa Department, School of African and Oriental Studies, London
Visual Sociology Ph.D. Researcher, Goldsmiths University of London

Emma Dabiri

Emma Dabiri is an Irish-Nigerian PhD researcher in Goldsmiths, and teaching fellow in the Africa Department at The School of Oriental African Studies. She also works as a commercial model. Thandie encountered her when she read an article Emma wrote for The New Statesman earlier this year. They struck up a Twitter chat, and the rest is history – as written by @TheDiasporaDiva. Welcome to her 21st century world.

I recently got caught up in an online debate about a black celebrity who has completely transformed her face, arguably to make it look more European. While the jury was out as to whether or not she should have had plastic surgery, the conversation was largely framed around whether or not the surgery was successful. Ultimately this was judged by whether or not she had achieved that elusive, subjective, and most coveted of assets, “beauty”.

I was struck by the sensation that something was very wrong with the whole picture. Why do we continue to allow our options to be constrained within such a tyrannical framework, whereby a woman’s worth is calculated by the way she looks? Why don’t we push for a redefinition of what is important?

Regardless of the outcome of the surgery, I think it is unlikely this celeb will be satisfied. Insecurities are rarely vanquished by indulging the processes responsible for creating them; If anything they are multiplied…

In my early teens I was very much the awkward black girl. I was always overlooked for my white, skinny, mousey brown-haired friends. Nobody asked me to dance at discos. When playing spin the bottle I willed the bottle never to land on me. I couldn’t bear the shame I felt for the poor misfortunate who might be dared to kiss a creature as monstrous as me.

In addition to the usual pressures on a teenage girl, mine were compounded by race. My hair – goodness my hair

…So it was complex. I wanted to be seen as pretty, I craved the validation (an empty and shallow place to barter for your humanity, but how many of us succumb to it?) yet at the same time I was incredibly uncomfortable with the attention I got. I was always made to feel conspicuous; under scrutiny, an object to be examined. In his famous train passage, Fanon explores the psychological effects of subjection to the white gaze, upon the black subject-

“Look, a Negro…Look at the nigger!…Mama, a Negro!”(1986:112).

I remember, vividly, a flood of grateful relief upon first encountering these words. As an isolated, ‘mixed-race’ or black individual, in a predominantly white environment, you become a cipher, a representation of a coming anarchy. The barbarians have breached the gates, and you are the manifestation of all the images, fantasies, fears and desires that have been absorbed by a population fed a steady diet of racist discourse. You are constantly under surveillance. You become achingly aware of your every gesture; your movements, your very posture, are at all times under analysis. Mundane details, the minutiae of your daily routine, are a performance for public consumption. While, I could not articulate this at the time, I experienced the suffocating weight of such an existence deeply…

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Kwame Anthony Appiah: The Complexities of Black Folk

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2015-04-16 21:34Z by Steven

Kwame Anthony Appiah: The Complexities of Black Folk

The Stone
The New York Times

George Yancy, Professor of Philosophy
Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Law and Philosophy
New York University

Kwame Anthony Appiah

This is the 10th in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Kwame Anthony Appiah, who teaches in New York University’s department of philosophy and its school of law. He has been the president of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, and of the PEN American Center. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, “Lines of Descent: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity.” — George Yancy

George Yancy: How did you become interested, philosophically, in the question of race? Did it grow out of something like a conceptual problem of reference, or did it come more out of lived experience? Or, perhaps this disjunction is a false start?

Kwame Anthony Appiah: I’m always skeptical when intellectuals give accounts of how they came about their interests! So you should take what I have to say as a set of hypotheses about my own past, not as the results of introspection, which yields nothing about this.

When I first started teaching in the United States in 1981 I had a joint appointment at Yale, in African and African-American studies, on the one hand, and philosophy, on the other, and I was casting about for things to do on the African and African-American side of my work, both as a teacher and as a scholar. I had been an undergraduate student at Cambridge in medical sciences for one year, and philosophy for two, and I was puzzled, as a newcomer to the United States, by the fact that many people appeared to think “race” was a biological concept, whereas I had been taught in my brief career in the life sciences to think it was not.

G.Y.: In your new book, “Lines of Descent,” you write that W.E.B. Du Bois saw himself as an American and a Negro (as opposed to an African-American). You state correctly how being an “American” and being a “Negro” did not fit well for him. I’m reminded of Du Bois’s encounter in “The Souls of Black Folk” with the tall (white) newcomer and how she refused to exchange visiting cards with him and how this signified early on in his life a deep tension in his sense of “racial” identity. Do you think contemporary African-Americans also find themselves possessed by, as Du Bois describes it, “two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps them from being torn asunder”?

K.A.A.: I think that Du Bois’s way of thinking about this, which was informed by 19th- century German social philosophy, can be put like this: Each people, each Volk, has a soul, a Geist, that is the bearer of a folk culture and of what he called spiritual “strivings.” American Negroes were possessed of the soul of America and the soul of the Negro. Since America’s folk culture was racist, they were possessed by a spirit that was, in some respects, hostile to them. The Negro soul gave them the resources for a positive sense of self, which helped to resist this, but it also gave them various other gifts…

…K.A.A.: Well, I should begin by saying that I think that a background of class privilege on both sides of my family has protected both my sisters and me from some of the worst challenges of living in a racist world. (They have also had the advantage of living much of their lives in various parts of Africa!) I was born in London but moved with my family to Ghana when I was 1. My sisters were all born there. When I was an undergraduate at college in England, Skip Gates and I and a Nigerian philosophy student we knew were the only black people in our college. But I had white upper-middle-class high school friends and upper-middle-class English cousins around, so I guess I didn’t feel that there was any question as to my right to be there, and I don’t think anyone else thought so either. (And I wouldn’t have cared if they did!)

As a young person in Ghana, many people I met in my daily life in my hometown knew my family, and knew why I was brown and not black. They knew my mother was an Englishwoman (and white) and my father was Ashanti (and black). And throughout my childhood in Ghana the Asantehene, the king of Ashanti, whose capital was my hometown, was my great-uncle by marriage. (To those who didn’t know me, though, I was a “broni kokoo,” a red [skinned] foreigner; “broni” is often mistranslated these days as “white person.”) So, in a way, the most interesting “problem” for me, having been in America and then an American citizen for much of my adult life (since 1997), has been how to figure out a black identity, having come from two places where my color had a very different significance.

One of the things that I have always been most grateful to this country for is the sense of welcome I have often felt from African-Americans as a person of African descent. There’s no necessity about this: my ancestors — and not so many generations back — were in the business of capturing and selling other black people into the Atlantic slave trade (and some of my mother’s kinfolk back then were no doubt in the business of buying and shipping them). So one thing that race does in the world is bring black people together in spite of these divided histories. But I suppose that the main effect of my being black has been to draw me to black subject matter, black issues, and to give me an interest — in both senses of the term, an intellectual engagement and a stake — in pursuing them. Without this connection to the world of Africa and her diaspora I would just be someone else…

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Lacey Schwartz Unearths Family Secrets in ‘Little White Lie’

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-04-14 16:52Z by Steven

Lacey Schwartz Unearths Family Secrets in ‘Little White Lie’

KCRW 89.9 MHz FM
Santa Monica, California

Kim Masters, Host

Kaitlin Parker, Producer

Lacey Schwartz grew up thinking she was white. When her college labeled her a black student based on a photograph, she knew she had to get some explanations from her family. Those conversations formed the foundation of her new PBS documentary Little White Lie. She shares how she convinced her parents to talk about tough topics on camera and why documentaries like hers are in danger of being pushed out of primetime on some PBS stations.

Listen to the episode (00:29:07) here. Download the episode here.

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Biracial Identity, which do you identify with?

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-10 01:23Z by Steven

Biracial Identity, which do you identify with?

The Spartan Daily: Serving San Jose State since 1934
San Jose, California

Andrea Sandoval

Identity is a complicated matter; everyone has one, but rarely are people aware of how they get one. The boundaries, symbols and language that make identity stand out are often unclear.

What qualities make one the person they are?

Skin color, hair texture and eye shape are all obvious characteristics when identity comes into play.

Being biracial, or being a part of two racial groups, can raise questions as to which ethnic group to identify with. Being multiracial may be even harder, but race remains a commonly used term for categorization.

According to psychologist Bryan Gros, there is no proof that multiracial students have more issues such as depression or anxiety then the general public.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that multiracial people together with blacks, Hispanics and Asians, will represent a majority of the U.S. population by mid-century. Right now, about 8 percent of the population is multiracial…

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One Drop of Love is coming to Massachusetts and New York in April

Posted in Arts, Census/Demographics, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-09 01:12Z by Steven

One Drop of Love is coming to Massachusetts and New York in April

One Drop of Love: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father’s Racial Approval

Photo by Jeff Lorch

“What Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni brings to the table is a moving and insightful microscope to our belief that there is such a thing as race and how the assignment of identity plays out in destructive ways that impact each and every one of us. This is a critical component that often gets missed in our attempts to dismantle this social construct.”Carol Ross, Media and Climate Communications Specialist for Amherst, Massachusetts.

For more information, click here.

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Black and Yellow: Blasian Narratives

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-07 20:30Z by Steven

Black and Yellow: Blasian Narratives

Psychology Today

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu Ed.D.

Crossing racial borders through storytelling

Saturday night I went to an event called, Black and Yellow: Blasian Narratives, featuring students from Stanford joining a group from Morehouse and Spelman, two historically black colleges. The students presented both monologues and interactive storytelling. Their diversity was stunning, Asian being Korean, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Japanese, and Vietnamese, with diverse forms of Black as well, from the Caribbean to Ghana. The purpose of the project by Canon Empire, a Cambodian American filmmaker and storyteller, is to unite Asian and Black communities through “Blasian” narratives and intimate and critical dialogues about race. He seeks to illuminate the reality that two communities historically socialized to see each other as polarized opposites and as competition and comparisons actually have much in common.

The presentations showed the complexity of lives that cross borders and enter liminal and marginal spaces, where creativity can flourish. Each person, in their own unique way, expressed their identities-in-flux, as if they were re-creating it right there on stage. As I watched them perform I was reminded of the wisdom of the identity scholar Erikson, who reminded us that: “Identity consciousness is overcome by a sense of identity won in action.”…

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“Mixed” Results: Multiracial Research and Identity Explorations

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-06 17:28Z by Steven

“Mixed” Results: Multiracial Research and Identity Explorations

Current Directions in Psychological Science
Volume 24, Number 2 (April 2015)
pages 114-119
DOI: 10.1177/0963721414558115

Sarah E. Gaither
Department of Psychology and Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture
University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Multiracial individuals report that the social pressure of having to “choose” one of their racial groups is a primary source of psychological conflict. Yet because of their ability to maneuver among their multiple identities, multiracials also adopt flexible cognitive strategies in dealing with their social environments—demonstrating a benefit to having multiple racial identities. The current article reviews recent research involving multiracial participants to examine the behavioral and cognitive outcomes linked to being multiracial and pinpoints possible moderators that may affect these outcomes. Limitations in applying monoracial identity frameworks to multiracial populations are also discussed.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Exposure to Racial Ambiguity Influences Lay Theories of Race

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-04-06 17:16Z by Steven

Exposure to Racial Ambiguity Influences Lay Theories of Race

Social Psychological and Personality Science
Volume 6, Number 4 (May 2015)
pages 382-390
DOI: 10.1177/1948550614562844

Diana T. Sanchez, Associate Professor of Psychology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Danielle M. Young
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Kristin Pauker, Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of Hawaii, Manoa

Biological lay theories of race have proven to have pernicious consequences for interracial relations, yet few studies have examined how intergroup contact itself (particularly with those who naturalistically challenge these conceptions) affects beliefs about race. Three studies (a correlational study, an interaction study, and an experimental study) examine whether exposure to racially ambiguous individuals reduces Whites’ biological lay theories of race across time. Study 1 demonstrates that increased exposure to racial ambiguity across 2 weeks reduced White individuals’ biological lay theories. Study 2 shows that Whites who interacted in a laboratory setting with a racially ambiguous individual were less likely to endorse biological lay theories, an effect that sustained for 2 weeks. Study 3 finds that the reduction in biological lay theories after exposure to racial ambiguity is mediated by the tendency for Whites’ lay theories of race to conform to beliefs they presume racially ambiguous individuals hold.

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Gorgeous Black-And-White Portraits Explore The Meaning Of Multiracial Identities

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-01 01:35Z by Steven

Gorgeous Black-And-White Portraits Explore The Meaning Of Multiracial Identities

The Huffington Post

Katherine Brooks, Senior Arts & Culture Editor

“I began this project because I recognized that I was part of a underrepresented group of people,” artist Samantha Wall explained in an email to HuffPost. “It’s difficult to talk about multiraciality with individuals who can’t understand our perspective. It’s not as simple as being part this and part that, our identities can’t be so easily divided. But art is a language that lends itself to communicating experiences too difficult to comprehend through words alone.”

For her project “Indivisible,” Wall explores the meaning of multiracial identities in Korea and the United States through a series of black-and-white portraits. The images show models staring fearlessly at the viewer, flashing a smile, a laugh and sometimes even a grimace. Wall’s charcoal and ink illustrations attempt to convey, as she notes, a feeling that words cannot. “Through this work I am exposing the plurality of emotions that sculpt human subjectivity,” she writes on her website. “The drawings of these women are portals into the human psyche, a place where emotions call out and perceived racial boundaries dissolve.”…

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Redefining — by not defining — biracialism

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-01 01:02Z by Steven

Redefining — by not defining — biracialism

The Daily Illini: The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871
Tuesday, 2015-03-31

Audrey Majors, Opinions columnist

Last week controversy arose over Japan’s 2015 Miss Universe contestant, Ariana Miyamoto, because she’s biracial— something critics, many of whom are Japanese, have taken issue with. Miyamoto has an African-American father and does not look like what most people imagine a traditional Japanese woman to look like.

As several news outlets have pointed out, Miyamoto speaks Japanese, lived most of her childhood in Japan and has a Japanese mother. Much of the discussion in defense of Miyamoto has consisted of the idea that these qualities make her Japanese, despite her biracial status. While I applaud the well-intentioned support for Miyamoto’s chosen racial identity, any legitimation of her race is unneeded because each person should be the sole authority of their racial identity.

I firmly believe no one should have to defend their chosen racial identity. And it sure as hell isn’t okay for anyone to police or undermine the racial identity someone has chosen. Even though the United States is more racially diverse than Japan, this type of exclusion exists here, too. And it will continue to exist everywhere until we change the way we think about racial categories and stereotypes…

…Racial identity is not merely a matter of appearance or genetics, but is one factor combined with social and cultural experiences that have shaped each person’s racial experience. Policing how multiracial people chose to identify neglects our right to understand the experiences that we feel best reflect ourselves…

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