Whiteness as Property

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-10-23 15:36Z by Steven

Whiteness as Property

Harvard Law Review
Volume 106, Number 8 (June 1993)
pages 1707-1791

Cheryl I. Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
School of Law
University of California, Los Angeles

Issues regarding race and racial identity as well as questions pertaining to property rights and ownership have been prominent in much public discourse in the United States. In this article, Professor Harris contributes to this discussion by positing that racial identity and property are deeply interrelated concepts. Professor Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law. Professor Harris traces the origins of whiteness as property in the parallel systems of domination of Black and Native American peoples out of which were created racially contingent forms of property and property rights. Following the period of slavery and conquest, whiteness became the basis of racialized privilege—a type of status in which white racial identity provided the basis for allocating societal benefits both private and public in character. These arrangements were ratified and legitimated in law as a type of status property. Even as legal segregation was overturned, whiteness as property continued to serve as a barrier to effective change as the system of racial classification operated to protect entrenched power.

Next, Professor Harris examines how the concept of whiteness as property persists in current perceptions of racial identity, in the law’s misperception of group identity and in the Court’s reasoning and decisions in the arena of affirmative action. Professor Harris concludes by arguing that distortions in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whiteness and by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • I. INTRODUCTION
  • II. THE CONSTRUCTION OF RACE AND THE EMERGENCE OF WHITENESS AS PROPERTY
    • A. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Slavery, Race, and Property
      • 1. The Convergence of Racial and Legal Status
      • 2. Implications for Property
    • B. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Native American Land Seizure, Race, and Property
    • C. Critical Characteristics of Property and Whiteness
      • 1. Whiteness as a Traditional Form of Property
      • 2. Modern Views of Property as Defining Social Relations
      • 3. Property and Expectations
      • 4. The Property Functions of Whiteness
        • (a) Rights of Disposition
        • (b) Right to Use and Enjoyment
        • (c) Reputation and Status Property
        • (d) The Absolute Right to Exclude
    • D. White Legal Identity: The Law’s Acceptance and Legitimation of Whiteness as Property
      • 1. Whiteness as Racialized Privilege
      • 2. Whiteness, Rights, and National Identity
  • III. BOUND BY LAW: THE PROPERTY INTEREST IN WHITENESS AS LEGAL DOCTRINE IN PLESSY AND BROWN
    • A. Plessy
    • B. Brown I
    • C. Brown II
    • D. Brown’s Mixed Legacy
  • IV. THE PERSISTENCE OF WHITENESS AS PROPERTY
    • A. The Persistence of Whiteness as Valued Social Identity
    • B. Subordination Through Denial of Group Identity
    • C. Subjugation Through Affirmative Action Doctrine
      • 1. Bakke
      • 2. Croson
      • 3. Wygant
  • V. DE-LEGITIMATING THE PROPERTY INTEREST IN WHITENESS THROUGH AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
    • A. Corrective Justice, Sin, and Whiteness as Property
    • B. Affirmative Action: A New Form of Status Property?
    • C. What Affirmative Action Has Been; What Affirmative Action Might Become
  • VI. CONCLUSION

…Because the “presumption of freedom [arose] from color [white]” and the “black color of the race [raised] the presumption of slavery,” whiteness became a shield from slavery, a highly volatile and unstable form of property. In the form adopted in the United States, slavery made human beings market-alienable and in so doing, subjected human life and personhood—that which is most valuable—to the ultimate devaluation. Because whites could not be enslaved or held as slaves, the racial line between white and Black was extremely critical; it became a line of protection and demarcation from the potential threat of commodification, and it determined the allocation of the benefits and burdens of this form of property. White identity and whiteness were sources of privilege and protection; their absence meant being the object of property.

Slavery as a system of property facilitated the merger of white identity and property. Because the system of slavery was contingent on and conflated with racial identity, it became crucial to be “white,” to be identified as white, to have the property of being white. Whiteness was the characteristic, the attribute, the property of free human beings…

Read the entire article here.

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Dorothy Roberts Lecture: “Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race”

Posted in Canada, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2014-10-22 15:18Z by Steven

Dorothy Roberts Lecture: “Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race”

McMaster University
CIBC Hall, McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC 319)
280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, L8S4L9, Canada
2014-10-23, 19:00-21:00 EDT (Local Time)

The Bourns Lectureship in Bioethics and the McMaster Centre for Scholarship in the Public Interest present a lecture by Dorothy Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology, Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights

Dorothy Roberts is the fourteenth Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, George A. Weiss University Professor, and the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, where she holds appointments in the Law School and Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, Roberts has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics.

She is the author of many award-winning texts including: Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Created Race in the Twenty-First Century (The New Press 2011), Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Civitas Books 2002), and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Random House 1997).

During her lecture at McMaster University, Roberts will examine how the myth of the biological concept of race – revived by purportedly cutting-edge science, race-specific drugs, genetic testing, and DNA databases – continues to undermine a just society and promote inequality in a supposedly “post-racial” era.

For more information, click here. View the poster here.

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Kaine pushes for Indian recognition

Posted in Articles, Law, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2014-10-12 23:01Z by Steven

Kaine pushes for Indian recognition

Sulfolk News-Herald
Suffolk, Virginia
2014-10-02

Tracy Agnew, News Editor

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is making another push to recognize six Virginia Indian tribes, including the Nansemond, through his support of a proposed rule that would bring more flexibility to the process.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs governs the process by which tribes in America can gain recognition from the federal government, and the benefits that come along with it…

…Its stringent criteria require, among many other things, documentation of the tribe’s existence and lineage from 1789 to the present, according to comments Kaine made in support of the rule change.

But at least six Virginia tribes — the Nansemond, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock and Monacan — have found the administrative process unavailable to them because of the historical destruction of records.

Five of the six courthouses that held the majority of the tribes’ records were burned during the Civil War, Kaine noted in a letter to Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

Beyond this accidental destruction, a eugenics movement and fear of interracial marriages prompted officials at the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics to systematically destroy the vital records of Virginia’s tribes beginning in 1912.

In 1924, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act codified the existence of only two races: “white” or “colored.” The law remained intact for nearly 50 years, forcing Indians to choose one or the other.

Officials even went so far as to retroactively change records to list Native Americans as “colored,” Kaine noted in his letter. This phenomenon is known today as “Pleckerism,” after Walter Ashby Plecker, the first registrar of the bureau, who was among the main officials who pushed to eliminate the Indian race in Virginia, at least on paper…

Read the entire article here.

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Cramblett vs. Midwest Sperm Bank

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-07 19:07Z by Steven

Cramblett vs. Midwest Sperm Bank

Marley-Vincent Lindsey
2014-10-07

Marley-Vincent Lindsey

I. Narratives and Political Order

On September 29, Jennifer L. Cramblett filed a suit against the Midwest Sperm Bank for “Wrongful Birth and Breach of Warranty against Defendant.” Where the expecting couple had picked a “blond hair blue-eyed individual” to resemble the non-biological partner, the mix-up had led to the conception of a bi-racial child. The basic grounds for the lawsuit are described in sections eight through sixteen. To summarize, the Sperm Bank had confused two sets of donors: Donor 380 and Donor 330. The confusion is explained in Section 21: “[The Records] are kept in pen and ink. To the person who sent Jennifer vials of sperm in September, 2011, the number “380” looked like “330,” and there are no redundancies to catch errors.”

Simply put, wrongful birth cases are a form of tort in which the claim for damages is based on the cost to parents of raising an “unexpectedly defective child.” Indeed, the term “defective child” is all over the relevant cases. “Wrongful Birth” on a whole has a long history of being associated with the parent’s right to information about their child before carrying it to term. In the words of BGD [Black Girl Dangerous]: “90 percent of fetuses testing positive for Down Syndrome will be aborted in the US. Eugenics cannot be our answer to ableism; advancing disability rights and justice should be.”

I don’t think this perspective ties us to the elimination of wrongful birth entirely. As one of the cases I’ll discuss later demonstrates, there are extreme cases in which a child may never live to see their fifth birthday. On a whole, however, wrongful birth is reflective of a structural consistency within systems to normalize their subjects. One of the many objectives of colonial ontologies is creating environments in which normalcy, through a number of repetitive subjects is preserved, at the cost not only of the value of diversity, but also the ability of subjects to make educated decisions about their own value. This is why I have a very difficult time assessing the development of colonial mentality in colonized subjects, despite the fact that most activists are ready to write such subjects off…

…I further have a specific interest in this regard: as a multi-racial child living with a white mother, I no doubt have a very close experience to what Peyton may know throughout her childhood. It is too easy to dismiss this narrative as simply one in which blackness is imposed on an otherwise white family. I think this is a mistake largely stemming from the structural intent on erasing multi-racial experiences. One only need recall the vitriol a certain Cheerios advertisement met to gain sense of mainstream conception of the mixed family. Calling again, Hardt and Negri, their chapter entitled “Symptoms of Passage” focuses on the irony in the relationship between postmodernism and Empire. Namely, that the former fails by only addressing the symptoms of the problem—the lack of pluralism in contemporary discourse, as an example—and completely misses the cause, which is the passage of power. In light of this chapter, I would suggest that the transition in contemporary race issues has been one in which the liberation movements of the late twentieth century sought to replicate the same power structures without regard to how those power structures would impact others…

Read the entire article here.

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Lawsuit: Wrong sperm delivered to lesbian couple

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, United States on 2014-10-01 16:44Z by Steven

Lawsuit: Wrong sperm delivered to lesbian couple

The Chicago Tribune
2014-10-01

Meredith Rodriguez, Tribune reporter

A white Ohio woman is suing a Downers Grove-based sperm bank, alleging that the company mistakenly gave her vials from an African-American donor, a fact that she said has made it difficult for her and her same-sex partner to raise their now 2-year-old daughter in an all-white community.

Jennifer Cramblett, of Uniontown, Ohio, alleges in the lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court that Midwest Sperm Bank sent her the vials of an African-American donor’s sperm in September 2011 instead of those of a white donor that she and her white partner had ordered.

After searching through pages of comprehensive histories for their top three donors, the lawsuit claims, Cramblett and her domestic partner, Amanda Zinkon, chose donor No. 380, who was also white. Their doctor in Ohio received vials from donor No. 330, who is African-American, the lawsuit said.

Cramblett, 36, learned of the mistake in April 2012, when she was pregnant and ordering more vials so that the couple could have another child with sperm from the same donor, according to the lawsuit. The sperm bank delivered vials from the correct donor in August 2011, but Cramblett later requested more vials, according to the suit…

…”On August 21, 2012, Jennifer gave birth to Payton, a beautiful, obviously mixed-race baby girl,” the lawsuit states. “Jennifer bonded with Payton easily and she and Amanda love her very much. Even so, Jennifer lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future.”

Raising a mixed-race daughter has been stressful in Cramblett and Zinkon’s small, all-white community, according to the suit. Cramblett was raised around people with stereotypical attitudes about nonwhites, the lawsuit states, and did not know African-Americans until she attended college at the University of Akron…

Read the entire article here.

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Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family by Chandra Mallampalli (review) [Epstein]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive on 2014-09-30 20:42Z by Steven

Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family by Chandra Mallampalli (review) [Epstein]

Victorian Studies
Volume 56, Number 3, Spring 2014
pages 519-520
DOI: 10.1353/vic.2014.0064

James Epstein, Distinguished Professor of History
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Mallampalli, Chandra, Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

The case of Abraham v. Abraham (1854–63) was extraordinary. It took nearly a decade to decide as it passed through the district civil court at Bellary in southern India, the appeals court at Madras, and finally the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee. The case repeatedly confounded legal categories based alternately on Hindu and English law and the fixed categories of Britain’s post-1857 colonial regime. In Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India, Chandra Mallampalli skillfully guides readers through the intricacies of the case, studying the social world inhabited by one family drawn into litigation and measuring the gap between their life-world and the protocols of the court. The period was one of imperial crisis and transition, as the British Crown assumed direct control over Indian territories following the 1857 Rebellion and authorities adopted a more cautious approach in governing Indian society. As the author writes, the more conservative turn of liberal governance “gave rise to an imperial multiculturalism, a policy of classifying colonial subjects according to race, religion, caste, or ethnicity,” while accentuating the difference between colonial subjects and colonizers (5).

Matthew Abraham was born into a Tamil-speaking family of “untouchables” (paraiyar community) who had converted to Catholicism. He subsequently converted to Protestantism and married Charlotte Fox, a Eurasian of Anglo-Portuguese descent. Matthew was part of the mobile group of camp followers who gravitated to the garrison town of Bellary. Access to the colonial culture centered on Bellary’s cantonment. The town’s thriving bazaar economy gave scope for Matthew’s enterprising talents and ambition; the locality’s social fluidity proved important to his self-fashioning. At the time of his marriage in 1820, he was working in the arsenal and selling military surplus items. Fairly soon he owned a distillery and most crucially was granted the East India Company contract to produce and supply liquor to the troops and local retailers—an irony, given his conversion to Evangelical Protestantism. The family prospered. Matthew assumed English customs and associated predominately with Europeans. He belonged to the class of doras, persons of local prominence, and was identified as an east Indian, a term usually reserved for those of mixed European and native blood. By a twist of fate, an oversight perhaps, the underlying complexities of this personal success story emerged in court records and now again in this fascinating book. Matthew died having left no will. His wife and his brother, Francis, who was involved in the family’s expanding business networks, fell out; they were unable to agree on a settlement or a legal heir, a necessary condition for their business dealings. From Matthew’s death in 1842 until Charlotte filed suit in 1854, the Abrahams “were a family in search of a law” (99). Once the case came to court, it produced a huge archive, with evidence taken from 271 witnesses and a series of conflicting verdicts.

In simplest terms, the case turned on whether Hindu or English law pertained. The Anglo-Indian system of civil or personal law mandated that Indians were governed according to their own laws whether Hindu or Muslim. As Mallampalli notes, a policy initially meant to promote religious tolerance also helped to create the fiction of coherent religious communities. The law seemed incapable of accommodating the intermingling of conditions and fluid identities that characterized the lives of the Abrahams. The legal agency of Charlotte and Francis depended on their ability to exploit the legal options open to them (in a sense, this is true of all legal proceedings). Hindu law worked to the advantage of male heirs. Charlotte and her legal councilors insisted that the family had been completely assimilated into the religion, customs, and lifestyle of Europeans and was therefore subject to English law with its emphasis on individual enterprise and ownership. Matthew’s brother was merely a business agent and subordinate family member. In contrast, Francis argued for continuity with Hindu tradition and his and Matthew’s undivided brotherhood, which would leave him as sole family heir. In this version, despite their Christian religion and European attitudes, the two brothers had been born into a class of persons who continued to observe the practice of Hindu…

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Notaries of Color in Colonial Panama: Limpieza de Sangre, Legislation, and Imperial Practices in the Administration of the Spanish Empire

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive on 2014-09-29 19:57Z by Steven

Notaries of Color in Colonial Panama: Limpieza de Sangre, Legislation, and Imperial Practices in the Administration of the Spanish Empire

The Americas
Volume 71, Number 1, July 2014
pages 37-69
DOI: 10.1353/tam.2014.0082

Silvia Espelt-Bombín
University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

On July 20, 1740, King Philip V of Spain was given paperwork regarding a dispute over the adjudication of a notarial office in Panama City and, as usual, he was expected to make a decision. The king also had in hand recommendations from the Cámara of the Consejo de Indias. The king would have handled the case in a relatively straightforward manner, but for one fact—the two notaries involved in the public bid were of African descent.

The notarial office (escribano público y del número) in question had been auctioned to Francisco Garcia y Robles, a white notary, for 1,525 pesos. A man named Jorge Geronimo Perez had also bid for it but lost, and was appealing the auction results on the grounds that the former owner of the notarial office had handed it over to him when the latter resigned. In addition, Perez argued, his long career in notarial service, including a time as assistant in the office of a notary, demonstrated his suitability for the post. To better assess his claim, the local authorities had required Perez to present documentation of his fiat (title of notary) and the dispensation of his defecto (defect), a document that stated he was of African descent—his grandmother was a mulata. However, Perez did not comply, and the case was forwarded to Spain. There, the Cámara and the king encountered a complication: the notary who had certified the auction was Joseph de Avellaneda, himself of African descent. To resolve the conflict, Philip issued a decree requesting that the two notaries of color present their fiats and dispensas de color o calidad (dispensations of color or calidad), both issued by the king, to the audiencia of Panama. If either refused to obey, he would be prevented from continuing to exercise his occupation. The decree also stated that the audiencia should not allow any mestizo or mulato to use the title of notary unless the king had provided him with an exemption for his defecto.

This case highlights the existence of a seemingly contradictory reality. Although official imperial legislation prohibited notary positions to people of African descent, the monarchs and the Consejo de Indias—and not so infrequently—granted them individual dispensas to work as notaries and to own notarial offices. The case before Philip V did not represent an isolated incident. I have identified 42 individuals of African descent who worked as notaries in Panama between the early seventeenth century and the 1810s, and frequently they owned notarial offices as well. These 42 cases demonstrate the existence of an imperial practice that started with the Habsburg monarchs and developed under the Bourbons. I argue that this practice needs to be understood within Spain’s policy of flexible legislation, which allowed for adaptations to maintain its empire. It evidences an accommodative approach on the part of metropolitan authorities to the changing social reality in the Spanish-American colonies. The practice would ultimately be made official with the late-eighteenth century gracias al sacar decrees.

In undertaking a quantitative and qualitative analysis of notaries of African descent in Panama over two centuries, this article engages with and contributes to four main lines of research in early-modern Latin American history: the role of notaries, the importance of limpieza de sangre and calidad in Spanish America, the workings of the administration of the Spanish territories, and the experience of free people of African descent. In my analysis, I question the predominant historiography that supports the notion that notaries were of Spanish descent, and maintains that African descendants were allowed to become notaries only through a combination of the crown’s economic need and a lack of interest in the occupation on the part of whites or Spaniards. I also question the suggestion that this permission was granted in significant numbers only in moments of crisis, or when there were difficulties in finding suitable candidates to occupy the posts, mostly from the early eighteenth century onward. The research I present here clearly establishes that people of color became notaries from the early seventeenth century. Even though greater public revenue might have been increasingly important in the late early-modern period, it…

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Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-09-22 17:53Z by Steven

Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans

New York University Press
September 2014
272 pages
1 figure, 2 tables illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 9780814724316

Kenneth R. Aslakson, Associate Professor of History
Union College, Schenectady, New York

No American city’s history better illustrates both the possibilities for alternative racial models and the role of the law in shaping racial identity than New Orleans, Louisiana, which prior to the Civil War was home to America’s most privileged community of people of African descent. In the eyes of the law, New Orleans’s free people of color did not belong to the same race as enslaved Africans and African-Americans. While slaves were “negroes,” free people of color were gens de couleur libre, creoles of color, or simply creoles. New Orleans’s creoles of color remained legally and culturally distinct from “negroes” throughout most of the nineteenth century until state mandated segregation lumped together descendants of slaves with descendants of free people of color.

Much of the recent scholarship on New Orleans examines what race relations in the antebellum period looked as well as why antebellum Louisiana’s gens de couleur enjoyed rights and privileges denied to free blacks throughout most of the United States. This book, however, is less concerned with the what and why questions than with how people of color, acting within institutions of power, shaped those institutions in ways beyond their control. As its title suggests, Making Race in the Courtroom argues that race is best understood not as a category, but as a process. It seeks to demonstrate the role of free people of African-descent, interacting within the courts, in this process.

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Poverty, environment helped set Toledo teens on path to murder

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Social Work, United States on 2014-09-22 17:07Z by Steven

Poverty, environment helped set Toledo teens on path to murder

The Toledo Blade
Toledo, Ohio
2014-09-21

Roneisha Mullen, Staff Writer

Rose Russell, Staff Writer

First of two parts

By the time Shamus Groom was 11 years old, he was already drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. At 14, he saw a gun for the first time, and at 15, he was occasionally “packing.”

In 2000, Groom, who moved from Adrian to Toledo as a teen, was sentenced to 15 years to life for the 1998 shooting death of a 20-year-old North Toledo man. The victim was gunned down by Groom’s half brother over a drug deal that went bad; Groom was present during the shooting.


Shamus Groom, serving 15 years to life in the Belmont Correctional Institution in St. Clairsville, Ohio, says he and his younger brother were bounced around the homes of family members.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

Printess Williams, a lifelong Toledoan, pleaded guilty in 2003 to killing four people — two in 1994 when he was 16, and two in 2002 when he was 24. He was sentenced to 151 years in state prison.

Groom and Williams are both black men. While violent crime isn’t limited to the black race, there appears to be something awry when significant numbers of young black males are landing in one of two places: graveyards or prisons.

Looking at their lives, it can be argued the environment Williams and Groom grew up in contributed as much to them becoming killers as their own decisions…

…The chain of events that led to the murder convictions of Groom and Williams began long before shots rang out claiming the lives of almost half a dozen Toledoans.

Born to a teenage mother and absentee father, Shamus Groom never fully knew what it meant to have a stable home. He and his younger brother, both of mixed race, bounced around the homes of family members while his mother worked odd jobs to take care of them. The boys were left with their “foster grandmother” when their mother moved out of the country to be with her new husband, who was in the military.

“They took care of us, but we felt like outcasts, like guests,” Groom said during an hourlong interview at Belmont Correctional Institution, a state prison in St. Clairsville, Ohio, near the Ohio-West Virginia line, where he’s serving his sentence. “We knew we didn’t belong there, and they reminded us all the time.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Michael Brown Tragedy: A Christian of Color Perspective

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Latino Studies, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2014-09-01 00:49Z by Steven

The Michael Brown Tragedy: A Christian of Color Perspective

Jesus for Revolutionaries: A Blog About Race, Social Justice, and Christianity
2014-08-25

Robert Chao Romero, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies and Asian American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Today is the funeral of Michael Brown. Please join me in praying for comfort for his family.

As for many, the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death has stirred in me much reflection about the deep racial divide in the U.S. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that racial profiling by police, and racial profiling in general, is wrong, especially when it leads to horrific violence. The racial divide seems to surface, however, when we discuss the prevalence of racial profiling in America today.

If someone grew up with fair skin and light hair in a middle class suburban neighborhood, then, in my experience, the tendency is to believe that racial profiling among police, and in other social settings, is not a pervasive problem.

If someone grew up African American or Latina/o in a racially marginalized urban area, then the almost universal agreement is that ethnic profiling is alive and well. It’s also important to note that many African Americans and Latinas/os in middle class suburban communities experience racial profiling (for example see this excellent article by a Black law professor from the Washington University School of Law in Missouri: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/25/opinion/norwood-ferguson-sons-brown-police/index.html).

When asserting our perspectives on the topic of racial profiling, we all speak from our personal experience. Many whites from suburban environments speak from their experience–where they have not been racially profiled and where law enforcement is viewed as an ally. For those of us who are People of Color, our experience is often quite different—we experience racial profiling by the police, at our work places, and when we go to our local strip malls to shop.

For example, here’s a few of my racial profiling experiences. Those of you who have tracked with Jesus for Revolutionaries for a while will know that I am a 6 foot 1, 220 pound, dark-skinned, bearded, “Chinese-Mexican,” who usually passes as Latino…

Read the entire article here.

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