Bill: New Yorkers could identify as multiracial

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-25 22:20Z by Steven

Bill: New Yorkers could identify as multiracial

The Associated Press
2014-11-25

Jonathan Lemire, City Hall and Political Reporter

NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers may soon be able to identify themselves as more than one race under legislation introduced in the City Council on Tuesday.

The measure would change dozens of official documents, including applications for public housing, registration with the Department of Small Business Services and complaint forms with the city’s Commission on Human Rights. Documents required of more than 300,000 city employees would also need to be changed.

Currently, city forms that ask for ethnicity or race have five options: “black, not of Hispanic origin,” ”white, not of Hispanic origin,” ”Hispanic,” ”Asian or Pacific Islander,” and “American Indian or Alaskan native.”

Advocates of the bill believe the measure would provide a clearer picture of demographics and allow New Yorkers to better recognize their heritage.

“I am 50 percent Irish, 25 percent Korean and 25 percent unknown,” said Corey Johnson, a city councilman from Manhattan, who drew upon his own heritage to champion the bill during a rally on the City Council steps. Johnson, a Democrat, was one of the co-sponsors of the bill, along with Councilman Ben Kallos, another Manhattan Democrat.

New York City has the highest multiracial population in the country. More than 325,000 city residents identified as more than one race on the 2010 census…

Read the entire article here.

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Proposal for NYC Forms: Option to Identify as Multiracial

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-25 17:16Z by Steven

Proposal for NYC Forms: Option to Identify as Multiracial

The Wall Street Journal
2014-11-24

Mara Gay, City Hall Reporter

Legislation Being Introduced in City Council on Tuesday

New Yorkers would be able to identify as more than one race on city documents under legislation set to be introduced in the City Council on Tuesday.

“We just wanted to bring New York City into the 21st century,” said Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a Manhattan Democrat and the lead sponsor of the measure. “This will allow New Yorkers to identify their heritage and be proud of it. They shouldn’t have to only check one box.”

The city has the highest multiracial population in the country, with 325,901 people identifying as more than one race on the 2010 U.S. Census.

Right now, city forms that ask for information about race or ethnicity have five options: “white, not of Hispanic origin”; “black, not of Hispanic origin”; “Hispanic”; “Asian or Pacific Islander”; and “American Indian or Alaskan Native.”

The legislation could mean changes for dozens of city forms. Complaint forms with the New York City Commission on Human Rights would be changed under the bill, for example, as would applications at the Department of Small Business Services and at the New York City Housing Authority. Documents required of New York’s more than 300,000 city employees would also be affected…

…The bill, which is co-sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos and Councilman Corey Johnson, both Democrats, would require city agencies to have the capacity to maintain the new demographic information within three years of the bill becoming law…

Read the entire article here.

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Let’s Talk About Race (in Latin@ Communities)

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-24 00:43Z by Steven

Let’s Talk About Race (in Latin@ Communities)

NACLA Report on the Americas
New York, New York
2014-10-16

Melissa M. Valle, Ph.D. candidate
Columbia University, New York, New York

While many trivialize race in Latin@ communities as abstract and irrelevant, Afro-Latin@s are still fighting a definitive racial hierarchy.

They say that the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he didn’t exist. While I’m not a religious person, I find something alarming about the notion that a sinister force is exacting its will on humanity while successfully going undetected, and therefore uncontested. Racism in Latin America has a similar invisible, but insidious, sort of quality.

Bring up racism amongst those from Latin America and you’ll often get an exasperated groan, followed by something about how class is the predominate stratifying principle in Latin America, and a plea to stop applying your U.S.-based take on race to those in Latin America and the Caribbean. They may even throw in a “we’re all mixed” or “what is race?” rejoinder for good measure.

They will likely bring up the fluidity of racial boundaries as a way of suggesting that the struggles around this form of discrimination have their own set of particularities when in a different setting like Latin America, and that these particularities absolve them from dealing with contradictory experiences of Afro-Latin@s that reveal a peculiarly hidden racism.

Fortunately, there are now numerous organizations and scholars carrying out the tireless work of bringing to light, documenting, and challenging the cumulative effects of centuries of oppression that continue to negatively impact the lives of millions of Afro-Latin@s. Recognizing the need for a critical analysis of the social reality of African-descended people from Latin America, local activists and scholars led by Juan Flores and Miriam Jiménez Román founded the afrolatin@ forum in New York in 2007. It was a moving experience to serve on the executive board of the forum in New York City in 2011 and help coordinate its first conference, “Afro-Latin@s Now!: Strategies for Visibility and Action.” The afrolatin@ forum is committed to advancing an understanding of the afrolatin@ experience in the United States and abroad. But on a personal level it has also heightened an understanding of racial marginalization and resistance for me and many of my co-organizers. Working with this collective, I feel my own identity as an Afro-Latina and scholar-activist has been affirmed.

This October’s second afrolatin@ forum conference, “Afro-Latin@s Now: Race Counts!” will provide a space to examine the structural and ideological barriers to full Afro-Latin@ representation and discuss opportunities for positive social change. The event will focus specifically on how race structures the life chances of Latin@s of African descent and how it is therefore critical that our experiences be shared and our numbers be counted in the census…

Read the entire article here.

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Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-11-19 23:47Z by Steven

Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America

Brookings Institution Press
2014-11-19
212 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780815725589
Paperback ISBN: 9780815725596
Ebook ISBN: 9780815726357

William H. Frey, Senior Fellow
Metropolitan Policy Program
Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.

At its optimistic best, America has embraced its identity as the world’s melting pot. Today it is on the cusp of becoming a country with no racial majority, and new minorities are poised to exert a profound impact on U.S. society, economy, and politics.

In April 2011 a New York Times headline announced, “Numbers of Children of Whites Falling Fast.” As it turns out, that year became the first time in American history that more minority babies than white babies were born. The concept of a “minority white” may instill fear among some Americans, but William H. Frey, the man behind the demographic research, points out that demography is destiny, and the fear of a more racially diverse nation will almost certainly dissipate over time.

Through a compelling narrative and eye-catching charts and maps, eminent demographer Frey interprets and expounds on the dramatic growth of minority populations in the United States. He finds that without these expanding groups, America could face a bleak future: this new generation of young minorities, who are having children at a faster rate than whites, is infusing our aging labor force with vitality and innovation.

In contrast with the labor force-age population of Japan, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, the U.S. labor force-age population is set to grow 5 percent by 2030.

Diversity Explosion shares the good news about diversity in the coming decades, and the more globalized, multiracial country that U.S. is becoming.

Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. A Pivotal Period for Race in America
  • 2. Old versus Young: Cultural Generation Gaps
  • 3. America’s New Racial Map
  • 4. Hispanics Fan Out: Who Goes Where?
  • 5. Asians in America: The Newest Minority Surge
  • 6. The Great Migration of Blacks—In Reverse
  • 7. White Population Shifts—A Zero-Sum
  • 8. Melting Pot Cities and Suburbs
  • 9. Neighborhood Segregation: Toward a New Racial Paradigm
  • 10. Multiracial Marriages and Multiracial America
  • 11. Race and Politics: Expanding the Battleground
  • 12. America on the Cusp
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

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The Case for Black With a Capital B

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-19 20:45Z by Steven

The Case for Black With a Capital B

The New York Times
2014-11-18

Lori L. Tharps, Associate Professor of Journalism
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA — I WAS sitting in my office at Temple University when I overheard an exchange between a colleague and his student. The student had come to see her professor to go over a paper, and he was patiently explaining that the abundance of grammatical mistakes detracted from her compelling content. I sympathized with my colleague as he pointed out error after error. Until he came to this one.

“Why did you capitalize black and white people?” he asked. “I thought I’d seen it written that way before,” the girl stammered. “Come on,” he said. “Why would you capitalize black or white?”…

…After emancipation, as many individuals replaced their slave surnames with ones of their own devising, like Freedman or Freeman, they still bore the painful legacy of the labels they’d been given: black, negro and colored.

It wasn’t only Black people who didn’t know what to call the nearly four million newly freed citizens of the United States. The government itself fumbled its way through names, categories and labels for Black people. Between 1850 and 1920, the United States census classified those of African descent as black, negro, mulatto, quadroon or octoroon — depending on the visual assessment of the census taker. By 1930, the Census Bureau offered just one of these categories: negro.

This wasn’t solely an issue of identity politics. In a 2008 article on the census for Studies in American Political Development, Jennifer L. Hochschild and Brenna M. Powell wrote, “Over the course of almost a century, the U.S. government groped its way through extensive experimentation — reorganizing and reimaging the racial order, with corresponding impact on individuals’ and groups’ life chances.” These names matter…

Read the entire article here.

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Hispanic Or Latino? That Is The Question

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Audio, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-19 17:08Z by Steven

Hispanic Or Latino? That Is The Question

Tell Me More
National Public Radio
2009-09-25

Michel Martin, Host

Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is being celebrated as Hispanic Heritage Month, but the some say the word “Hispanic” should be retired, and would rather be referred to as Latino. Host Michel Martin speaks to four Latinos with varying opinions on the subject — syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, Afro-Latino Activist Roland Roebuck, “Ask a Mexican” columnist Gustavo Arellano and Tell Me More Planning Editor Luis Clemens.

I’m Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. It’s time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what’s in the news and what’s on their minds. And this week, we’re going for a different kind of shape-up than we usually do, you know, switching it up a little bit.

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and to mark the occasion, we’ve decided to represent right here in the Barbershop. So sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, who writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune and CNN.com, Gustavo Arellano, who writes the syndicated column “Ask a Mexican,” community activist Roland Roebuck, and NPR editor Luis Clemens, our own. Welcome to you, and dare I say it? Hola…

…MARTIN: All right. And before we jump into other topics, I have to ask, this being Heritage Month, let’s start with the title itself. Whenever, you know, I have to choose, I always have this little moment, you know, why Hispanic versus Latino Heritage Month? Does it matter? Gustavo, I’m going to start with you because this is actually something you’ve written about and thought about a lot. So Hispanic versus Latino, why? Which?

Mr. ARELLANO: Which one? Honestly for me, it’s whatever people want to call themselves, whatever makes them more comfortable. Some people don’t like either of the labels. They want to call themselves Chicano or Boricua, or whatever their particular labels may be.

The reason why it’s called Hispanic Heritage Month is because it comes from the federal government deciding that hey, guess what? We’re all Hispanics, and this happened – the urban myth is that Richard Nixon was the godfather of Hispanics. That’s what Richard Rodriguez, the noted author said, but it was actually done during the Ford administration. And literally, it was done in the back room of some government hall where they took a poll. Should we call these people Latinos or Hispanic?

So Hispanic won. So in that case, that’s why I don’t like the term Hispanic. I don’t like the government telling me what I should call myself. I’d prefer Latino. But again, if you want to call yourself Hispanic, then God bless you. Or Dios bless you, right?

MARTIN: Okay, why do you prefer Latino?

Ms. ARELLANO: Just because it’s more out of, you know, out of eliminating the other part that I don’t like. So I don’t – I mean, I don’t like Hispanic only for that term, so I’ll use Latino. But me personally, I call myself Naranjedal(ph), a child of, you know, an orange-picker because I come from Orange County, California, and my grandparents were orange-pickers. So that’s what I would call myself, and that’s where – whenever I go across the country, that’s what I tell people I call myself. But, of course, only a very limited amount of people can call themselves that. So if I’m going to express brotherhood with the fellow people that were colonized by the Spaniards or the Portuguese, then I’ll just – I decide to call myself Latino.

MARTIN: Okay. Roland, what about you?

Mr. ROEBUCK: Well, this month should be called White Hispanic Heritage Month, because it allows an opportunity for white Hispanic to display their wares, and it also heightens the invisibility of Afro-Latinos that are seldom given a chance to participate in these national holidays. So we are invisible during the year, more so during White Hispanic Heritage Month.

MARTIN: Why do you say that? And for those who can’t – you consider yourself Afro-Latino.

Mr. ROEBUCK: Yes, yes. But just look at the events. Ever since Celia Cruz died, Roberto Clemente is not around, people are scrambling to find Afro-Latinos to be recognized because they concentrate on two areas.

MARTIN: Now, you prefer Latino, as opposed to – you don’t say Afro-Hispanic.

Mr. ROEBUCK: No. I say – if I’m going to use the Latino, it would be Afro-Latino because I want to acknowledge my Africanness, and I also want to recognize my cultural background, which is Puerto Rican. But I have to use both.

For me, Hispanic refers to white, Spanish-speaking individuals. So the whiter you are, the more inclined you will be to identify yourself as Hispanic. And this is prevalent throughout the Southern region of the United States. If you ask the average person on Columbia Road, do you consider yourself Hispanic? No. They will use a geographic identification…

Read the transcript here. Listen to the story here. Download the story here.

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How far have we come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-17 19:25Z by Steven

How far have we come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)
Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia
2014-11-14

Lin Taylor

What was once a shameful taboo with a deep, dark racist history is now the face of the modern world. But how far have we really come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Estelle Griepink is not a celebrity.

But more often than not, the 22-year-old will get stopped on the streets of Indonesia and Malaysia, with passers-by eager to take her photo.

“I lived in Indonesia for a couple of months and I was stopped by people who wanted to take photos of me – and with me – quite frequently,” she said. “It’s happened in Malaysia, where my family lives, too.”

Her appeal? The fact that she is half Malaysian and half Dutch.

“I know this happens to people who are white too – blonde hair, blue eyes – but I felt there was something kind of creepy doing it to me as they would go on about how amazing it was that I was half Asian, half white.

“At the end of the day my ethnicity is completely out of my control, so I hardly think it is something to be congratulated on or celebrated for… like you’re a collector’s item.”

But with their mysterious, racially ambiguous ‘look’ and exotic heritage, it’s not hard to see why mixed race people like Griepink are so in demand…

…Racial hierarchy, racism and the ‘one-drop rule’

Dr Julie Matthews, an educator and sociologist at the University of Adelaide, believed the sexualisation and preference for mixed race people is inherently racist.

“We’ve sexualised or pornographied mixed race. It’s a very narrow line between exoticisation and sexualisation, fetishisms – where you turn all non-white people into people who exist simply into your own pleasure.”

She said that a person who is half white is more “palatable” and acceptable in society – an idea, she believed, is steeped in racism and prevalent since colonisation.

“Colonialism has circulated the idea that white is best. White is at the top of a kind of hierarchy of humanity… If you believe there is a hierarchy of races, which is what racism is about, a little bit of white is more palatable,” said Dr Matthews, 58, who is half Japanese and half English.

“You can get rid of the fear, and horror and the anger of race by adding a bit of whiteness.”

A pertinent example of this was the treatment of half-Aboriginal children and the Stolen Generation. Between the late 1800s and the 1970s, the Australian government forcibly removed Aboriginal children with a white parent from their community, placing them in non-Indigenous foster homes or state-run institutions. It was hoped that mixed race children would ‘assimiliate’ into white Australian society and cut ties with their black ancestry.

Sociologist Professor Reginald Daniel from the University of California added that across all racial groups, blackness is the one identity that is the most complicated.

“When it comes to blackness, there is one frontier that is the most complicated,” he told SBS. “There is no ambiguity about who’s black no matter what you look like, no matter what your ancestry because of the ‘one drop rule’ way back to, at least informally, in slavery, and then formally in law.”

A term mainly used in the US, the one-drop rule is the idea that even ‘one drop’ of blackness in your ancestry precludes you from being truly white, and therefore ‘lower’ on the racial hierarchy (with whiteness being at the top of the scale).

“There was a time when [an interracial] couple would have been – in parts of the United States – lynched by the [Ku Klux] Klan. Those kinds of attitudes had very serious consequences in terms of physical harm. And that does still happen. There are numerous hate crimes directed at interracial couples and mixed race people. And that pattern has not gone. It’s a reflection of that deep long racist history,” said Professor Daniel, whose own multiracial identity includes African, European, Asian, Arab, and Native American origins.

As a result of such entrenched racism, Professor Daniel said identifying as a multiracial person was often “fraught with conflict”, especially if the individual had a black ancestor.

“There was not a lot of mixed race people in the past in terms of identity – even if they existed they didn’t embrace that identity. So it was an identity that was fraught with a lot of conflict, in a sense that, well, how do you form an identity that’s so totally different from everything and everyone around you?”

It’s a sentiment that Tony Ryder, 25, knows all too well.

With an Italian father and an Aboriginal mother, Ryder told SBS he grew up hiding his Noongar and Yamatji ancestry because of the racism he endured in his hometown of Perth.

“Everyone’s experience is different I suppose, but for me, you know, you get called b**ng, c**n, every name under the sun… Where I went to high school, being Aboriginal isn’t celebrated – you just get made fun of.”

But when Mr Ryder did start embracing his Aboriginal heritage, he said he struggled to find acceptance within the community because of his lighter skin.

“People need to start realising that Indigenous people don’t all look the same…We are a diverse people just like any other race. Years and years of genocide and forced assimilation does not mean that we are all going to be black-skinned and living in the desert.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni on Growing Up with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Race, and What It Takes to Do a One-Woman Show

Posted in Articles, Arts, Census/Demographics, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-15 12:50Z by Steven

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni on Growing Up with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Race, and What It Takes to Do a One-Woman Show

Phoenix New Times
2014-10-30

Zaida Dedolph

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni stars in a one-woman show written by her and produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni wants to talk about race in America — and she’s got an idea of where she wants to start. The writer-actor-director-producer extraordinaire will bring her one-woman show, One Drop of Love, to Mesa Arts Center on Saturday, November 1.

Inspired by her own experiences with race, family, and reconciliation, One Drop of Love endeavors to explore these concepts in a funny, relatable way. In addition to giving two performances, Cox DiGiovanni will be hosting a panel discussion and community dialogue on Thursday, October 31, at the Arizona Opera Center. We spoke with the creative about her performance, her history, and her first-ever visit to Arizona.

Zaida Dedolph: Fanshen, you seem to wear a lot of hats. Where did you learn to do all of these things?

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni: I mostly see myself as an actor — that’s why I moved to Los Angeles and what I’ve been pursuing for the longest time in a creative capacity. I’ve known I wanted to be an actor since I was very young, but at the mean time I had all these other interests. So I joined the Peace Corps in West Africa and that got me into teaching, so I balanced teaching and acting.

As an actor, especially in LA, I started to notice that I wasn’t booking but I also was auditioning for things that I didn’t feel good about or proud of, so it was hard to bring my all to an audition when I felt like the roles were demeaning or just not me. As much as I think it’s good to stretch as an actor, it’s also good to know that you’ve got at least a base that you can work from. So I started to learn about writing.

It helps that I grew up with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and was incredibly fortunate to watch them take a story that they believed in, then write that story, and write themselves into lead roles in that story, and then turn it into Good Will Hunting. So I had some people close to me to model the fact that I could write characters that I could feel good about and be proud of.

I started learning about writing, did some stand-up, wrote a couple feature-length screenplays, so now I had this writing and some characters I was proud of, but then I asked “what’s next, how do I get these characters out there?” and realized I needed to learn how to produce as well. I joined a program in Los Angeles called Project Involve [a faction of Film Independent that works to support filmmakers from backgrounds that are not frequently represented in the film industry] and learned a little more about producing.

My husband was researching MFA schools and found the most affordable one in the country was at California State University [at] Los Angeles, so I followed him into the program. That’s where I really learned hands on producing. One Drop of Love was my thesis for the MFA program, so I got to put all the things that I learned together. That’s how I ended up producing and performing and writing…

..ZD: When it comes to the American discussion of race, what issues do you think we are focusing too much attention on? Which ones do you think we should be paying more mind to?

FCD: I hope people walk away from the show [understanding] that we tend to focus too much on our differences when it comes to race. In the show I try to make it clear that race doesn’t exist genetically, and yes, we’ve all kind of come to a place where we believe in it culturally and politically, but genetically there is zero difference, as was proven by Human Genome Project.

In the show, I take the racial categories from the first U.S. Census in the 1790s. It had three racial categories and has been changed 24 times since then, now there are so many racial categories on the census. Anything that can change that easily can’t have any real, strong bearing on anything! Unfortunately, we’ve let it become so important.

I hope people will focus less on what our differences in race are and focus on what we all have in common, which is that none of us want racism. We created race to oppress people, so let’s not focus on these differences and instead focus on where we can unify…

Read the entire interview here.

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Gillian Wearing redefines Birmingham for the 21st century

Posted in Articles, Arts, Census/Demographics, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2014-11-15 12:49Z by Steven

Gillian Wearing redefines Birmingham for the 21st century

The Telegraph
London, United Kingdom
2014-10-31

Bernadette McNulty, Music Editor and Arts Writer


Gillian Wearing’s A Real Birmingham Family Photo: Courtesy of Birmingham City Council, Arts Council England and Ikon

With her statue of a mixed-race, single-parent family, Gillian Wearing has transformed Birmingham’s city centre, says Bernadette McNulty

Birmingham has had an uneasy relationship with public sculpture over the last few decades. In 1991, the council unveiled a work by the city-born artist Raymond Mason in the newly created Centenary Square. Called Forward, it depicted a throng of the city’s great and good at key moments in the area’s history – including Joseph Chamberlain and Josiah Mason. Made out of butter-coloured polyester resin, the monument was comically dubbed the Lurpak statue by locals and in 2003 destroyed by arsonists.

In nearby Victoria Square, Antony Gormley’s ominous Iron Man looms over a corner, while Dhruva Mistry’s 1994 River Goddess – known as the Floozie in the Jacuzzi – is currently trussed up in a neon pink bikini for a breast cancer campaign. To her left, a towering column props up a magisterial Queen Victoria, who looks away disapprovingly.

But the latest statue in Centenary Square, while no less controversial than Mason’s, stands a better chance of connecting with the feelings of the city’s residents. Gillian Wearing’s A Real Birmingham Family was unveiled on Thursday outside the new Library of Birmingham. This flagship building, thronged with people, has transformed the square, now unrecognisable from its Mason days. Before it was revealed to a small, excited crowd (including local dignitaries and the artist), the piece looked dwarfed by the monumental proportions of the library behind it…

…It wasn’t until plans for the new library were finalised in 2010, with a site in front of it designated for a statue, that the project was set in motion. The Ikon set about a painstaking two-year search for entries of what people nominated as their “real” family, including groups of friends or even single people. In the end a committee whittled down hundreds of entrants to the two mixed-race, single parent Jones sisters: “They were passionate about knowing their identity as a family and the bond between them. They also spoke of how proud they were to be from Birmingham and how Birmingham was such an accepting place, and how they can be a family here more than anywhere else.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed race in the UK: am I the future face of this country?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-11-09 18:34Z by Steven

Mixed race in the UK: am I the future face of this country?

The Telegraph
London, United Kingdom
2014-11-08

Laura Smith

With ‘mixed race’ now the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the country, prejudice should be a thing of the past – but as one writer reveals, we’ve still got a long way to go

Where I grew up, a mixed-race family was something of an anomaly. Families, according to our neighbours – and the pictures on cereal boxes, board games and holiday brochures – meant a white mother and a white father and two children, preferably a boy and a girl, ideally blonde. The father went to work in a suit; the mother stayed home and sang along to Radio 1 while doing the housework.

My family wasn’t like that. My mother was from Guyana and wore her hair in a short Afro. She liked jumpsuits and jewellery and, shockingly, worked full-time. My father was from Scotland and wore embarrassing checked jackets from the 1960s (he was in his forties when my brother and I were born). Neither had heard of Radio 1.

My childhood memories of growing up in a mainly white, expensively heeled north London suburb include the following…

…Reaction to this social change has been contradictory, and peppered with hyperbole. On the one hand, the rise of “beige Britain” is eulogised as evidence of an open, tolerant country that’s moved beyond outdated notions of race and racism. It has become fashionable to shrug and say, “Well, we’ll all be brown soon.” On the other, it is not unusual to see alarmist articles about white people becoming the minority (two recent stories predicting that so-called “indigenous white children” would be “outnumbered” in state schools by 2037 were illustrated with images of mixed children), while in the black press there are reports about the disappearance of the Caribbean presence as increasing numbers “marry out”…

…Negative ideas around racial mixing have a long history. In Britain, concern about interracial unions reached a peak in the first half of the 20th century, when mixed neighbourhoods such as Toxteth and Tiger Bay were portrayed as immoral and dangerous, mixed children as tragic outcasts. Marie Stopes, then a prominent eugenicist, called for all “half-castes” to be “sterilised at birth”. Caballero says this notion of mixed people as divided and confused – the “marginal man” of early social science – remains. “When I started in this area I got sick of reading about how we were all psychologically traumatised and about all these broken relationships when my own parents have been together for 30 years,” she says…

Read the entire article here.

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