COLA Seminar Probes Shifting Identity of ‘Whiteness’ in America

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-11-29 01:34Z by Steven

COLA Seminar Probes Shifting Identity of ‘Whiteness’ in America

University of Virginia
College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Anne Bromley / UVa Today

The category of “white” as the majority race against which other groups have been described in the United States might seem well-defined, but it has been anything but that throughout American history.

In the past decade, scholars digging into primary sources have found that at certain times, some ethnic groups that one might think of as being “white” today – including Irish or Scotch-Irish, Italian, Jewish and Polish – were not considered to be white like Anglo-Saxon whites at various times and places. These attitudes led to economic and social conditions often enforced by law.

In her first-year seminar, or COLA, “Whiteness: A Racial Category,” assistant professor of religious studies Jalane Schmidt aims to show how whiteness, not just blackness, has been a shifting category and has served to exclude or include certain ethnic groups or races over time and in different parts of the country. Legal and social conditions defining who was considered black or white also demonstrate that being white has not been a hard-and-fast identity…

…“Whiteness is the elephant in the room that needs to be examined,” Schmidt said. “We’re used to studying racism as the exclusion of ‘others.’ But we’re not used to framing racism as, in part, an anxious effort (legal, social, cultural, etc.) to protect and prop up the perennially unstable racial category known as whiteness.”…

…Instead of fighting injustices under which both groups suffered, the Irish chose to join the privileged category, and this happened with other ethnic groups, too, Schmidt said. Just as children who go to a different school when their families move have to learn what the social scene is like, new immigrants in America had to learn a new set of social codes eventually, she said, giving up Gaelic language and ceasing to mix with black people.

The class is also studying how the definition of “white” changed over time in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson defined “the American” as “Anglo Saxon” and had a low opinion of the Scotch-Irish settlers of Appalachia, whose proximity to Indians, he wrote, had allegedly rendered them “wild,” Schmidt said.

A recent guest speaker to the class, Cinder Stanton, former head historian at Monticello, talked about her research on slavery at Jefferson’s plantation home and on the progeny of Jefferson and the slave Sally Hemings, the topics of her book, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness.” The descendants who defined themselves as black knew about and embraced their heritage. Those who passed as white, however, such as Eston and Julia Hemings, left behind their mixed ancestry and changed their name; their white descendants didn’t know they were related to Jefferson and Hemings until they found out from Stanton during her fieldwork…

Read the entire article here.

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Michael Brown and the deadly effects of colorism

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-29 00:37Z by Steven

Michael Brown and the deadly effects of colorism

Newsworks: WHYY News
The Philadelphia Experiment
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Solomon Jones

The outcry triggered by the killings of unarmed men by police officers — from Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., to the choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY — has largely focused on the victims’ skin color.

But little has been said about the fact that the men killed by police are not just African American. They are often dark skinned. That deep, ebony complexion, and all that it symbolizes, is significant, said Dr. Yaba Blay, co-director and assistant teaching professor of Africana Studies at Drexel University.

For dark-skinned black men, Blay said, “The unquestionable state of their blackness invokes fear in others. We haven’t seen racially ambiguous men gunned down by police.”

Complex prejudice

Such violence is just one consequence of what academics call colorism — the prejudging of others based on complexion…

Read the entire article here.

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A Profound Documentary, Little White Lie Follows a Woman’s Search for Her Identify

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-11-28 21:47Z by Steven

A Profound Documentary, Little White Lie Follows a Woman’s Search for Her Identify

The Village Voice
New York, New York

Diana Clarke

In Woodstock, New York, at the end of the 20th century, Lacey Schwartz was raised in an affluent Jewish household where something was slightly off. Darker-skinned than her mother and father, Schwartz fielded probing questions about her race from a young age, but refused to entertain the possibility that she was not the biological offspring of her two white parents. When Lacey was in high school, her parents’ marriage collapsed, and so did the veneer of her identity. Schwartz’s subsequent investigation resulted in this profound and engaging documentary

Read the entire review here.

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‘Dear White People’: A Mixed-Race Perspective

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-28 19:00Z by Steven

‘Dear White People’: A Mixed-Race Perspective

Pacific Citizen: Then National Newspaper of the JACL
Los Angeles, California

Christine Munteanu, Assistant Program Director
Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)

Last week, I watched a film called “Dear White People,” which follows the experiences of four black students at a predominately white, fictional Ivy League university. It was refreshing to see a movie that focused on the experiences of people of color, rather than the mainstream movies I usually watch that are almost exclusively about white people. Even though I know very little about black identity struggles specifically, as a person of color, there were many moments that I found relatable, familiar and funny.

I enjoyed the film overall, but as a mixed-race Japanese American, I was bothered by the portrayal of a biracial black character named Samantha White. Sam is the outspoken, radical leader of the Black Student Union’s protests against discriminatory university policies. She hosts a controversial campus radio show that speaks to the black experience, is well-versed in the history of civil rights and is the new head of an all-black residence hall.

The film follows Sam’s struggle with her identity as a biracial black woman. The fact that she is half-white is highlighted throughout the film as the reason she feels the need to “overcompensate” through her activism as a way to prove her blackness. Sam’s white boyfriend, Gabe, whom Sam repeatedly pushes away as she organizes protests and implements new policies in her residence hall, tells Sam that she is denying her true self by being so militant — after all, he knows she secretly listens to Taylor Swift. Meanwhile, Sam’s white father (literally, Mr. White) is suffering from health issues, adding a sense of urgency to Sam’s feeling that she must “choose a side.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Going to College and Learning You’re Black: The Moving Story of Little White Lie

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-11-28 18:30Z by Steven

Going to College and Learning You’re Black: The Moving Story of Little White Lie

Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair’s Hollywood

Chase Quinn

“You boys are black, and don’t you forget that.”

From an early age I was taught that both my black identity and my white-Irish identity were important, and that I was never to relinquish either from my understanding of who I was. Watching Lacey Schwartz’s thought-provoking documentary Little White Lie— now in limited release and airing on PBS March 23—I was reminded of this formative experience, the wisdom of these seemingly competing messages and the diverse range of biracial narratives out there.

Little White Lie traces the story of Schwartz’s discovery of her mixed-race heritage after 18 years believing she was the product of two white, Jewish parents. After submitting a photo of herself with her undergraduate application to Georgetown and being contacted by their black student alliance, she begins to question the story she’s been told about who she is and that of her parents’ picture-perfect marriage. Ultimately she’s forced to confront her mother about a secret affair with Schwartz’s biological father, a black man and longtime family friend, and reexamine who she is as person…

Read the entire review here.

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11-2 Insight Dr. Yaba Blay Author of One Drop – Shifting the Lens on Race

Posted in Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-28 04:50Z by Steven

11-2 Insight Dr. Yaba Blay Author of One Drop – Shifting the Lens on Race

Power 99FM, WUSL-FM
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Loraine Ballard Morill, Host

Yaba Blay, Assistant Teaching Professor of Africana Studies
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dr. Yaba Blay author of (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race talks about the changing definition of race and whether it matters.

Download the interview here.

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Explaining Ferguson to interracial children

Posted in Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-11-28 04:07Z by Steven

Explaining Ferguson to interracial children

St. Louis, Missouri

Christina Coleman, Anchor-Reporter

Family Counselor Michael Herold strongly recommends having plenty of discussions about the different cultural traditions experiences that make up the child’s racial background on both sides of their family.

View the video here.

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The new threat: ‘Racism without racists’

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-28 03:32Z by Steven

The new threat: ‘Racism without racists’

Cable News Network (CNN)

John Blake

They showed people a photograph of two white men fighting, one unarmed and another holding a knife. Then they showed another photograph, this one of a white man with a knife fighting an unarmed African-American man.

When they asked people to identify the man who was armed in the first picture, most people picked the right one. Yet when they were asked the same question about the second photo, most people — black and white — incorrectly said the black man had the knife.

Even before the Ferguson grand jury’s decision was announced, leaders were calling once again for a “national conversation on race.” But here’s why such conversations rarely go anywhere: Whites and racial minorities speak a different language when they talk about racism, scholars and psychologists say.

The knife fight experiment hints at the language gap. Some whites confine racism to intentional displays of racial hostility. It’s the Ku Klux Klan, racial slurs in public, something “bad” that people do.

But for many racial minorities, that type of racism doesn’t matter as much anymore, some scholars say. They talk more about the racism uncovered in the knife fight photos — it doesn’t wear a hood, but it causes unsuspecting people to see the world through a racially biased lens.

It’s what one Duke University sociologist calls “racism without racists.” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, who’s written a book by that title, says it’s a new way of maintaining white domination in places like Ferguson.

“The main problem nowadays is not the folks with the hoods, but the folks dressed in suits,” says Bonilla-Silva…

…’I don’t see color’

It’s a phrase some white people invoke when a conversation turns to race. Some apply it to Ferguson. They’re not particularly troubled by the grand jury’s decision to not issue an indictment. The racial identities of Darren Wilson, the white police officer, and Michael Brown, the black man he killed, shouldn’t matter, they say. Let the legal system handle the decision without race-baiting. Justice should be colorblind.

Science has bad news, though, for anyone who claims to not see race: They’re deluding themselves, say several bias experts. A body of scientific research over the past 50 years shows that people notice not only race but gender, wealth, even weight.

When babies are as young as 3 months old, research shows they start preferring to be around people of their own race, says Howard J. Ross, author of “Everyday Bias,” which includes the story of the knife fight experiment…

…Another famous experiment shows how racial bias can shape a person’s economic prospects.

Professors at the University of Chicago and MIT sent 5,000 fictitious resumes in response to 1,300 help wanted ads. Each resume listed identical qualifications except for one variation — some applicants had Anglo-sounding names such as “Brendan,” while others had black-sounding names such as “Jamal.” Applicants with Anglo-sounding names were 50% more likely to get calls for interviews than their black-sounding counterparts.

Most of the people who didn’t call “Jamal” were probably unaware that their decision was motivated by racial bias, says Daniel L. Ames, a UCLA researcher who has studied and written about bias.

“If you ask someone on the hiring committee, none of them are going to say they’re racially biased,” Ames says. “They’re not lying. They’re just wrong.”

Ames says such biases are dangerous because they’re often unseen.

“Racial biases can in some ways be more destructive than overt racism because they’re harder to spot, and therefore harder to combat,” he says…

…’But I have black friends’

In the movie “The Godfather,” the character of Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, hatches an audacious plan to kill a mobster and a crooked cop who tried to kill his father.

Michael’s elders scoff at his plans because they believe his judgment is clouded by anger. But in a line that would define his ruthless approach to wielding power, Michael tells them:

“It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”When some whites talk about racism, they think it’s only personal — what one person says or does to another. But many minorities and people who study race say racism can be impersonal, calculating, devoid of malice — such as Michael Corleone’s approach to power.

“The first thing we must stop doing is making racism a personal thing and understand that it is a system of advantage based on race,” says Doreen E. Loury, director of the Pan African Studies program at Arcadia University, near Philadelphia.

Loury says racism “permeates every facet of our societal pores.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-27 03:07Z by Steven

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Correspondent

Violence works. Nonviolence does too.

In a recent dispatch from Ferguson, Missouri, Jelani Cobb noted that President Obama’s responses to “unpunished racial injustices” constitute “a genre unto themselves.” Monday night, when Barack Obama stood before the nation to interpret the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, he offered a particularly tame specimen. The elements of “the genre” were all on display—an unmitigated optimism, an urge for calm, a fantastic faith in American institutions, an even-handedness exercised to a fault. But if all the limbs of the construct were accounted for, the soul of the thing was not.

There was none of the spontaneous annoyance at the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, and little of the sheer pain exhibited in the line, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” The deft hand Obama employed in explaining to Americans why the acquittal of George Zimmerman so rankled had gone arthritic. This was a perfunctory execution of “the genre,” offered with all the energy of a man ticking items off a to-do list.

Barack Obama is an earnest moderate. His instincts seem to lead him to the middle ground. For instance, he genuinely believes that there is more overlap between liberals and conservatives than generally admitted. On Monday he nodded toward the “deep distrust” that divides black and brown people from the police, and then pointed out that this was tragic because these are the communities most in need of “good policing.” Whatever one makes of this pat framing, it is not a cynical centrism—he believes in the old wisdom of traditional America. This is his strength. This is his weakness. But Obama’s moderation is as sincere and real as his blackness, and the latter almost certainly has granted him more knowledge of his country than he generally chooses to share.

In the case of Michael Brown, this is more disappointing than enraging. The genre of Obama race speeches has always been bounded by the job he was hired to do. Specifically, Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America. More specifically, Barack Obama is the president of a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor, and land. This plunder has not been exclusive to black people. But black people, the community to which both Michael Brown and Barack Obama belong, have the distinct fortune of having survived in significant numbers…

Read the entire article here.

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Fake Diversity and Racial Capitalism

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-11-27 02:52Z by Steven

Fake Diversity and Racial Capitalism


Nancy Leong, Professor of Law
Sturm College of Law
University of Denver

For decades now, it’s been fashionable for institutions of all kinds to showcase their racially diverse constituencies. This is true even when the institution in question has been sued for discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or other protected categories:…

…But behind the smiling, diverse faces, many institutions also share a dirty little secret. A lot of the diversity is the result not of the institution’s inclusive practices when it comes to recruiting, hiring, admitting or whatever other word is appropriate. Rather, it’s the result of Photoshop

…How can we explain this impulse to overstate diversity, either through Photoshop or through aggressive presentation of diversity? I examined this phenomenon in a 2013 article in the Harvard Law Review called “Racial Capitalism.” What I call racial capitalism is the process of an individual or group deriving value from the racial identity of another person. While in theory any group might derive value from the racial identity of another, in practice, since white people are historically and presently a majority in America, racial capitalism most often involves a white person or a predominantly white institution extracting value from non-white racial identity.

Racial capitalism explains why white people are so keen to tell you about their black friends. It explains why white people are so anxious to tell you about the diverse neighborhood they live in. And, more generally, it explains why people have a powerful incentive to display their affiliation with non-white people…

Read the entire article here.

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