Biological Determinism and Racial Essentialism

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-08-24 02:14Z by Steven

Biological Determinism and Racial Essentialism

The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Volume 661, Number 1, September 2015
pages 8-22
DOI: 10.1177/0002716215591476

W. Carson Byrd, Assistant Professor of Pan-African Studies
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Matthew W. Hughey, Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

In August 2012, nine months after being artificially inseminated using a sperm donation from the Midwest Sperm Bank of Downers Grove, Illinois, a white Ohio woman named Jennifer Cramblett gave birth to a racially “mixed” and healthy baby girl named Payton. Despite the triumph, the woman soon filed a “wrongful birth” suit in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that the sperm bank gave her sperm vials from an African American donor instead of a white donor, which in turn caused “personal injuries . . . pain, suffering, emotional distress and other economic and non-economic losses” (Circuit Court 2014, 8). The lawsuit states “that they now live each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future” (Circuit Court 2014, 6).

The supposed racial mismatch between parent and child in Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank reveals the presence of two powerful belief systems that haunt both the popular imagination and stalk the scientific landscape: the notions of “biological determinism” (that race is genetically inherited) and “racial essentialism” (that group-based biology maps to basic social behaviors). Together, biological determinism and racial essentialism form the “ideological double helix” that intertwines to shape beliefs about race and inequality and influence the theoretical approaches, analytic strategies, and interpretations taken by scholars conducting biomedical and social scientific research. The suit turns on the assumption that varied racial groups have bounded and characteristically unique arrangements of genetic material: as the complaint contends, “Their desire was to find a donor with genetic traits similar to both of them” (Circuit Court 2014, 2–3). Such devotion to racial essentialism motivates a belief that the two white parents in this case are more similar to each other (because of their shared “whiteness”) than they are to their child (because of an unknown “black” father), even though the…

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Why Right-Wing Bloggers Are Desperate To Prove Biracial People Aren’t Black

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-23 01:21Z by Steven

Why Right-Wing Bloggers Are Desperate To Prove Biracial People Aren’t Black

Think Progress

Aviva Shen, Senior Editor

Shaun King, right, addresses the controversy over his racial identity.

Right-wing media has been abuzz over the past few weeks with rumors that Black Lives Matter activist and writer Shaun King is not actually black. Breitbart and other more mainstream outlets like the Daily Beast compared King to Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane NAACP leader whose parents revealed she was white earlier this year. The harassment escalated so much that King finally published an emotional personal account Thursday evening, explaining that his biological father is an unknown black man who had an affair with his mother.

Some of the same bloggers have apparently also “investigated” the parentage of Wesley Lowery, a biracial Washington Post reporter who covers the Black Lives Matter movement.

The harassment of King recalls a long American tradition of telling multiracial people what their identities can and cannot contain. The notorious “one drop rule” — which legally declared anyone with black ancestry, no matter how light-skinned or blue-eyed they were, as mulatto or colored — was central to maintaining a white supremacist hierarchy in the South well into the 20th century. Many people who could get away with it “passed” as white so as to enjoy the privileges of segregated services closed off to black people…

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Mark Duggan: mother of man shot dead by police in 2011 calls for urgent inquiry

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United Kingdom on 2015-08-22 00:44Z by Steven

Mark Duggan: mother of man shot dead by police in 2011 calls for urgent inquiry

The Guardian

Diane Taylor

Pamela Duggan claims police could have done much more to track down the man who supplied a weapon to her son. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Call for new inquiry comes as demonstrators prepare to march to Tottenham police station close to where Duggan was shot by police four years ago

The mother of Mark Duggan, whose fatal shooting by police led to the 2011 London riots, is calling for an urgent inquiry by the home secretary into the events that led to her son’s death four years ago.

Demonstrators are due to march to Tottenham police station later on Tuesday close to where Duggan was shot by police on 4 August 2011, shortly after collecting a firearm from gun supplier Kevin Hutchinson-Foster.

The jury at the inquest into Duggan’s death found that police could have done more to take the gun off the street in the days before he picked it up. Photograph: Rex Features

A demonstration outside the same police station a few days after Duggan’s fatal shooting was followed by the biggest riots in the UK for years

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Race, love, hate, and me: A distinctly American story

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Law, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-08-21 01:36Z by Steven

Race, love, hate, and me: A distinctly American story

Daily Kos

Shaun King

[Shaun King] 14 years old. Sophomore in high school

Over the past 72 hours I have been attacked with lies by the conservative media, lies that have been picked up by the traditional media and spread further. I have kept silent at the advice of friends and mentors, but I will do so no longer.

The reports about my race, about my past, and about the pain I’ve endured are all lies. My mother is a senior citizen. I refuse to speak in detail about the nature of my mother’s past, or her sexual partners, and I am gravely embarrassed to even be saying this now, but I have been told for most of my life that the white man on my birth certificate is not my biological father and that my actual biological father is a light-skinned black man. My mother and I have discussed her affair. She was a young woman in a bad relationship and I have no judgment. This has been my lived reality for nearly 30 of my 35 years on earth. I am not ashamed of it, or of who I am—never that—but I was advised by my pastor nearly 20 years ago that this was not a mess of my doing and it was not my responsibility to fix it. All of my siblings and I have different parents. I’m actually not even sure how many siblings I have. It is horrifying to me that my most personal information, for the most nefarious reasons, has been forced out into the open and that my private past and pain have been used as jokes and fodder to discredit me and the greater movement for justice in America. I resent that lies have been reported as truth and that the obviously racist intentions of these attacks have been consistently downplayed at my expense and that of my family…

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The Shaun King controversy, explained

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-08-20 20:49Z by Steven

The Shaun King controversy, explained


German Lopez, Staff writer

Shaun King (Source: Twitter)

Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King is currently at the center of a controversy that has nothing to do with a police shooting or brutality — it’s, instead, about his personal life and racial identity.

Over the past several weeks, conservative media outlets have published multiple pieces disputing different claims King has made about his life over the years. And the latest accusations — which caused the story to trend on Twitter — have called into question whether King is biracial, as he claims.

There’s a bit of history to this conflict. But the fact that a self-identified biracial man is being chastised by conservative media outlets as part of an attempt to discredit him shows just how fluid the entire concept of race can be, and that makes it difficult to know who’s right and wrong when questions about race come up…

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Tony Robinson’s mother files civil rights lawsuit over fatal police shooting of son

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-17 01:24Z by Steven

Tony Robinson’s mother files civil rights lawsuit over fatal police shooting of son

The Guardian

Zoe Sullivan

Andrea Irwin alleges officer Matt Kenny violated 14th amendment equal protection rights and fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches

The mother of a biracial man killed by a white police officer in Madison, Wisconsin, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over her son’s death in March.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Tony Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, alleges that officer Matt Kenny violated the equal protection rights guaranteed by the 14th amendment as well as Robinson’s fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches.

At a rally Wednesday afternoon outside the state capitol, Robinson’s mother told the small crowd gathered that the lawsuit was part of an effort to end needless deaths of black men at the hands of police. “This will stop. If this is the only way that we can start to do this, then by God, this is how we will do this.”

Robinson was shot on 6 March during an altercation with Kenny, who told investigators that he thought he heard a disturbance in an apartment recently entered by Robinson…

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President Obama’s Letter to the Editor

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-08-13 01:37Z by Steven

President Obama’s Letter to the Editor

The New York Times Magazine

Barack Obama, President of the United States
Washington, D.C.

Illustration by Ben Wiseman

For the cover story of our Aug. 2 issue, Jim Rutenberg wrote about efforts over the last 50 years to dismantle the protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the landmark piece of legislation that cleared barriers between black voters and the ballot. The story surveyed a broad sweep of history and characters, from United States Chief Justice John Roberts to ordinary citizens like 94-year-old Rosanell Eaton, a plaintiff in the current North Carolina case arguing to repeal voting restrictions enacted in 2013. The magazine received an unusual volume of responses to this article, most notably from President Barack Obama.

I was inspired to read about unsung American heroes like Rosanell Eaton in Jim Rutenberg’s “A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.”

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union. …” It’s a cruel irony that the words that set our democracy in motion were used as part of the so-called literacy test designed to deny Rosanell and so many other African-Americans the right to vote. Yet more than 70 years ago, as she defiantly delivered the Preamble to our Constitution, Rosanell also reaffirmed its fundamental truth. What makes our country great is not that we are perfect, but that with time, courage and effort, we can become more perfect. What makes America special is our capacity to change…

…I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality. Their efforts made our country a better place. It is now up to us to continue those efforts. Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act. Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier — not harder — for more Americans to have their voices heard. Above all, we must exercise our right as citizens to vote, for the truth is that too often we disenfranchise ourselves…

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On Being Biracial and Affirmative Action: Where Do I Fit in?

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2015-07-25 01:20Z by Steven

On Being Biracial and Affirmative Action: Where Do I Fit in?

Skirt Collective

Shannon Luders-Manuel
Los Angeles, California

Abigail Fisher, a white student who was denied entrance to the University of Austin, Texas [University of Texas, Austin], is taking her case to the Supreme Court, calling the decision a clear result of affirmative action. While I don’t know the figures (but this For Harriet writer does), I do have a personal investment in enlightening others on the role that affirmative action may play out for a real live, three-dimensional, skin and bones person. Perhaps learning someone’s story can help those who may be quick to judge the policy.

The only instance in which I know for sure that I was a recipient of affirmative action was at the preschool in my town’s local community college. As a black biracial kid of a white single mother, I attended the preschool along with a few other minorities and many white children. Throughout the rest of my schooling, particularly in graduate school, I’ve wondered if affirmative action played a role in my education. While I believe affirmative action is important, and even crucial, knowing that it exists makes myself and other minorities wonder if we’re one of the few who’ve been “given a pass.” Despite my fear, I’ve faced my fair share of educational discrimination, which began in 5th grade…

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Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Law, Monographs, United States on 2015-07-13 17:45Z by Steven

Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist

University of Oklahoma Press
September 2015
304 pages
6.125″ x 9.25″
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806149165

Amina Hassan, Consultant & Researcher
The Azara Group, New York, New York

Loren Miller was one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights attorneys from the 1940s through the early 1960s, particularly in the fields of housing and education. With co-counsel Thurgood Marshall, he argued two landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decisions effectively abolished racially restrictive housing covenants. One of these cases, Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), is taught in nearly every American law school today. Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist recovers this remarkable figure from the margins of history and for the first time fully reveals his life for what it was: an extraordinary American story and a critical chapter in the annals of racial justice.

Born the son of a former slave and a white midwesterner in 1903, Loren Miller lived the quintessential American success story, both by rising from rural poverty to a position of power and influence and by blazing his own path. Author Amina Hassan reveals Miller as a fearless critic of the powerful and an ardent debater whose acid wit was known to burn “holes in the toughest skin and eat right through double-talk, hypocrisy, and posturing.”

As a freshly minted member of the bar who preferred political activism and writing to the law, Miller set out for Los Angeles from Kansas in 1929. Hassan describes his early career as a fiery radical journalist, as well as his ownership of the California Eagle, one of the longest-running African American newspapers in the West. In his work with the California branch of the ACLU, Miller sought to halt the internment of West Coast Japanese citizens, helped integrate the U.S. military and the L.A. Fire Department, and defended Black Muslims arrested in a deadly street battle with the LAPD. Hassan charts Miller’s ceaseless commitment to improving the lives of Americans regardless of their race or ethnicity. In 1964, Governor Edmund G. Brown appointed Miller as a Municipal Court justice for Los Angeles County.

The story told here in full for the first time is of a true American original who defied societal limitations to reshape the racial and political landscape of twentieth-century America.

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The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-07-13 02:00Z by Steven

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts

Harvard University Press
April 2015
288 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
11 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674967625

Amber D. Moulton, Researcher
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Well known as an abolitionist stronghold before the Civil War, Massachusetts had taken steps to eliminate slavery as early as the 1780s. Nevertheless, a powerful racial caste system still held sway, reinforced by a law prohibiting “amalgamation”—marriage between whites and blacks. The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts chronicles a grassroots movement to overturn the state’s ban on interracial unions. Assembling information from court and church records, family histories, and popular literature, Amber D. Moulton recreates an unlikely collaboration of reformers who sought to rectify what, in the eyes of the state’s antislavery constituency, appeared to be an indefensible injustice.

Initially, activists argued that the ban provided a legal foundation for white supremacy in Massachusetts. But laws that enforced racial hierarchy remained popular even in Northern states, and the movement gained little traction. To attract broader support, the reformers recalibrated their arguments along moral lines, insisting that the prohibition on interracial unions weakened the basis of all marriage, by encouraging promiscuity, prostitution, and illegitimacy. Through trial and error, reform leaders shaped an appeal that ultimately drew in Garrisonian abolitionists, equal rights activists, antislavery evangelicals, moral reformers, and Yankee legislators, all working to legalize interracial marriage.

This pre–Civil War effort to overturn Massachusetts’ antimiscegenation law was not a political aberration but a crucial chapter in the deep history of the African American struggle for equal rights, on a continuum with the civil rights movement over a century later.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Amalgamation and the Massachusetts Ban on Interracial Marriage
  • 2. Interracial Marriage as an Equal Rights Measure
  • 3. Moral Reform and the Protection of Northern Motherhood
  • 4. Anti-Southern Politics and Interracial Marriage Rights
  • 5. Advancing Interracialism
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
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