Scholarly perspectives on the mixed race experience.
Going back to the Census figures quoted in The New York Times, it’s one thing to claim that the multiracial population may increase 50 percent, but when the original figure is only 2.4 percent of Americans, a 50 percent increase simply means that the 2010 multiracial population could end up around 3.6 percent of the population. The number 50 surely sounds more impressive than the smaller 3.6 figure. Manipulating these numbers can create misleading impressions, sometimes done with intention.
Ep. 66 – Glenn Robinson is a White guy. He’s married to a Mexican woman, and they have 2 Biracial and Bicultural kids.
Glenn is a devoted advocate for the multiracial and multicultural communities. He aggregates and curates content for several websites aimed at the issues confronting these communities. Those websites are:
There are over 3 million people of Filipino heritage living in the U.S., and many say they relate better to Latino Americans than other Asian American groups. In part, that can be traced to the history of the Philippines, which was ruled by Spain for more than 300 years. That colonial relationship created a cultural bond that persists to this day.
In the first part of this interview, Mississippi Poet Laureate (2012-16), Natasha Trethewey talks about her work that deals with history, racism, and family, including her first creative non-fiction book, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Trethewey also reads from her most recent poetry collection, Thrall, which includes an elegy for her now deceased father, the poet Eric Trethewey, in front of an audience as part of the 2015 Humanities Lecture Series at Kansas University’s Hall Center for the Humanities. New Letters on the Air also has an earlier interview that features Trethewey’s first three poetry books, including the Cave Canem Prize winning, Domestic Work, and the Pulitzer Prize winning, Native Guard. The second part of this interview and an earlier 2008 program with Natasha Trethewey are available in our audio archives.
Dan Livesay, Assistant Professor of History Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California
Marlene Daut tackles the complicated intersection of history and literary legacy in her book Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865 (Liverpool University Press, 2015). She not only describes the immediate political reaction to the Haitian Revolution, but traces how writers, novelists, playwrights, and scholars imposed particular racial assumptions onto that event for decades afterward. Specifically, she identifies a number of recurring tropes that sought to assign intense racial divisions to the Haitian people. Individuals of joint African and European heritage, she contends, received the blunt of these attacks, as they were portrayed as monstrous, vengeful, mendacious, and yet also destined for tragedy. Moreover, observers and chroniclers of the Revolution maintained that these supposed characteristics produced ever-lasting discord with black Haitians. Daut analyzes hundreds of fictional and non-fictional accounts to argue that portrayals of the Haitian Revolution, and of the country itself, have long suffered under these false assumptions of exceptional racial problems. She has also produced a compendium of Haitian fiction during this period, in conjunction with the book. You can find it here.
Listen to the interview (00:49:33) here. Download the interview here.
For over 400 years it’s been claimed that the first Medici Duke of Florence was mixed race, his mother a slave of African descent. Catherine Fletcher of Swansea University asks if this extraordinary story about the 16th-century Italian political dynasty could be true. Or do the tales of Alessandro de’ Medici tell us more about the history of racism and anti-racism than about the man himself?
The New Generation Thinkers are the winners of an annual scheme run by the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to find academics at the start of their careers who can turn their research into fascinating broadcasts.
The Essay was recorded in front of an audience at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead. If you want to hear Catherine Fletcher discussing her research you can download the Essay and conversation as an Arts and Ideas podcast.
Growing up in San Antonio, Brown said she struggled to find other representations of herself — an Afro-Latina woman from a working class family — both in her community and literature.
“I remember reading books and being so invested in the characters and the story, and then I would get to a certain line in the story where it would describe what the character looked like. And then I would realize, this book is not talking about me,” she said. “Part of my work is to always go back for little girl Ariana and figure out what it is she needed that she didn’t get.”
In high school, Brown picked up the autobiography of Malcolm X. He was “someone who was also working class, from a poor family, a family of color, who didn’t have access to opportunities, who came from a neighborhood where you weren’t expected to excel,” she said.
Reading about the way Malcolm X used language to command attention gave her a road map for her own future, she said…
…Brown’s poem “Inhale: The Ceremony” speaks to her relationship to her ancestors, a history that she said is often unacknowledged or disrespected. “I’m never racialized as Latina. I’m always racialized as black. My whole identity isn’t acknowledged [and] I’m assumed to be an outsider in almost every space I enter. That is a very isolating feeling,” she said…
Why does lighter skin improve women’s chances of getting through school, getting a job and getting married? Cristen and Caroline explore the historical roots, repercussions and cross-cultural shades of colorism around the world.
Listen to the episode (00:48:48) here. Download the episode here.
“What are you?” The question can often comes out of nowhere One can be going about her quotidian activities, or she might have just finished a meeting at work. “What are you?” The question is disorienting for most, but for others who are racially ambiguous it is commonplace. The ostensibly benign question suggests that it is about the person being asked. However, one might argue that it is more about the one who does the asking. In The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millenium (Stanford University Press, 2011), Michele Elam critically discusses the rise of the Mixed Race Studies. To demonstrate the new sub-genre of cultural studies in both art and academia Elam shows elements of what mixed-racedness looks like in the classroom, as well as in the public sphere here at the turn of the 21st century.
One of the contributions of Elam’s Souls makes to Mixed Race Studies is her careful outline of the ways people of mixed biological ancestry have historically worked for the goal of social justice for all oppressed groups; moreover, she shows how those who look at mixed-racedness critically continue to do so. This, despite the trajectory in which some of mixed-race advocates are moving: people of mixed-race backgrounds are a separate group with separate issues, and most importantly, being both black and white–and that is most often the only definition many use of being “mixed”–their experience falls outside the purview of race studies. This notion of being separate and outside is often used to justify a view of race that essentially reifies notions of identity as being defined by blood percentage–a point of view that takes us back, not forward. While those who critically study mixed- raceness see that one’s movement through a society that continues to ask What are you? can result in alternate experiences, many show that the difference can work in a way to help all understand racial oppression. Dr. Michele Elam, Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor in the English Department at Stanford University, falls within the latter group.
And, so do Lezley Saar, Danzy Senna, Philip Roth, Aaron McGruder, and Dave Chappelle, to name but a few. A mixed bag, for sure, Elam examines relevant works of the aforementioned artists as she considers the way in which they challenge what is quickly becoming conventional thought on mixed-racedness from the academic classroom to the public sphere.
Whether one is fascinated with her critical reading of K-12 textbooks focused on mixed race curriculum or with her reading of artist Lezley Saar’s “Baby Halfie Brown Head”; with her insightful readings of Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks comic strips and/or the unforgettable episode “The Racial Draft” from The Dave Chappelle Show; whether one is interested in the ways that author Colson Whitehead and playwright Carl Hancock Rux ask their audiences to think critically about mixed-racedness in the 21st century one thing is clear: Elam first highlights and subsequently knocks down the notion that “fetishizing the box” of the racial categories on census forms or outlining one’s mixed family tree represents progression towards a most just society in the US.