Belle: A Film That Defied Expectations

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2014-09-01 00:33Z by Steven

Belle: A Film That Defied Expectations

The Root
2014-08-24

Julie Walker

The film’s star and director talked to The Root about how an inspirational character helped shaped the movie, which is now out on DVD.

Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who stars in the movie Belle—now out on DVD—grew up in England watching Jane Austen films but never imagined that she would play the lead in a period drama.

Those films, like the books they were based on, never had black or biracial heroines, but Belle does. The film was inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of an enslaved African woman and an officer in the British Royal Navy. Belle was raised a free woman in 17th-century England.

The film opened in May to rave reviews and so far has grossed $10,722,990 (as of Aug. 24, 2014), according to Box Office Mojo. Not bad for a movie that only opened on four screens and had trouble getting made because of the subject matter.

The film’s star and director talked to The Root about how an inspirational character helped shaped the movie, which is now out on DVD.

Mbatha-Raw told The Root in May, before the film’s U.S. release, that she wanted young girls to be able to see themselves in Belle. “This is the first time I have seen a period drama with a biracial woman as the lead and it is told from a female British perspective,” said Mbatha-Raw, who has a white English mother and black South African father. “The film explores issues of identity, race, class and gender, which are very universal themes, but also the film is this sweeping love story. It is such a different perspective, and I think it is important to know as a biracial person myself.”…

…That director is Amma Asante, who is also British. She echoed the same sentiment when The Root spoke with her before the film’s U.S. premiere.

“There was a little girl who looked like me and you, who helped to change the course of our history. That’s a good thing; we can celebrate that,” Asante said.

It was the idea that a black woman would be the focus that drew Asante to the story. “I feel like it is essential to explore these stories because they are part of what makes us who we are today, and we are all responsible to own our history. We need to tell these stories,” said Asante, who signed on to the project in 2009…

Read the entire article here.

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How Racism Creeps Into Medicine

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-29 20:28Z by Steven

How Racism Creeps Into Medicine

The Atlantic
2014-08-29

Hamza Shaban
Washington, D.C.

The history of a medical instrument reveals the dubious science of racial difference.

In 1864, the year before the Civil War ended, a massive study was launched to quantify the bodies of Union soldiers. One key finding in what would become a 613-page report was that soldiers classified as “White” had a higher lung capacity than those labeled “Full Blacks” or “Mulattoes.” The study relied on the spirometer—a medical instrument that measures lung capacity. This device was previously used by plantation physicians to show that black slaves had weaker lungs than white citizens. The Civil War study seemed to validate this view. As early as Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, in which he remarked on the dysfunction of the “pulmonary apparatus” of blacks, lungs were used as a marker of difference, a sign that black bodies were fit for the field and little else. (Forced labor was seen as a way to “vitalize the blood” of flawed black physiology. By this logic, slavery is what kept black bodies alive.)

The notion that people of color have a racially defined deficiency isn’t new. The 19th century practice of measuring skulls, and equating them with morality and intelligence, is perhaps the most infamous example. But race-based measurements still persist. Today, doctors examine our lungs using spirometers that are “race corrected.” Normal values for lung health are reduced for patients that doctors identify as black. Not only might this practice mask economic or environmental explanations for lower lung capacity, but the logic of innate, racial difference is built into things like disability estimates, pre-employment physicals, and clinical diagnoses that rely on the spirometer. Race has become a biologically distinct, scientifically valid category despite the unnatural and social process of its creation.

In her recent book Breathing Race into the Machine, Lundy Braun, a professor of Africana studies and medical science at Brown University, reveals the political and social influences that constantly shape science and technology. She traces the history of the spirometer and explains its role in establishing a hierarchy of human health, and the belief that race is a kind of genetic essence. I spoke with her about the science of racial difference, its history, and its resurgence.

Hamza Shaban: How did the idea of race corrections and differing lung capacity come about?

Lundy Braun: My research suggests that Samuel Cartwright, a Southern physician and plantation owner, was the first person to use the spirometer to compare lung capacity in blacks and whites. The first major study making racial comparisons of lung capacity with a large sample size was the anthropometric study of Union soldiers directed by Benjamin Apthorp Gould, published in 1869.

The idea about the pathology of black lungs circulated in medical groups in the late 19th century but the next scientifically modern racial comparison was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1922. This paper was followed by a flurry of studies in the 1920s, some of which continue to be cited in the 2000s. Gould’s book also continues to be cited…

Read the entire interview here.

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Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico [Villarreal Review]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-08-28 20:37Z by Steven

Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico [Villarreal Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1989-1991
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.920094

Andrés Villarreal, Professor of Sociology
University of Maryland, College Park

Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico, by Christina A. Sue, New York, Oxford University Press, 2013, xi + 234 pp., £15.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-19-992550-6

A powerful official ideology promoted by the Mexican Government since the early twentieth century glorifies the mestizo, defined as the descendant of both indigenous and Spanish peoples, as a symbol of national identity. This same ideology holds racism to be inexistent in contemporary Mexico, and negates the contribution of individuals of African descent to Mexican history and to the racial make-up of the nation. Despite the importation of many thousands of slaves during the colonial period, blacks have been essentially erased from the national consciousness. Christina Sue’s outstanding ethnographic study uncovers how Mexican men and women work to reconcile this official national ideology which they vehemently espouse, with their own lived experiences in which individuals with a darker skin tone are routinely discriminated in everyday life, and in which African ancestry is clearly evident in some regions of the country.

Research on racial attitudes in Indo-Latin American countries such as Mexico has focused mostly on the mestizo–indigenous dichotomy. However, Sue convincingly argues that distinctions along a colour continuum within the mestizo population have an important effect on individuals’ life chances. Framing discussions in terms of colour rather than race allows many Mexicans to make comparisons without violating the national ideology according to which racial classifications are no longer relevant.

In contrast to the official ideology of non-racism, Sue finds evidence of tremendous racial prejudice among her subjects in the coastal city of Veracruz. Veracruzanos with a lighter skin tone enjoy preferential treatment socially and in work settings. Employers often code their preference for workers with lighter skin tones by soliciting candidates with ‘good presentation’, a term whose meaning is fully known by job applicants. Racial prejudice is also evident within family units. Family members use a variety of gatekeeping techniques to prevent the entry of dark-skinned individuals into their families through marriage. A woman interviewed by Sue reports that her mother-in-law refuses to speak to her because she is darker than her husband (94). Veracruzanos also agonize over children inheriting the phenotype of a darker parent. Reflecting the disappointment that his daughter inherited his darker skin tone, one father notes: ‘I wouldn’t have cared if she was ugly like me, but I wanted her to have green eyes … like her mother or be light like her mother. But she came out ugly like me’ (74). As in other parts of Latin America, Sue finds that Veracruzanos systematically equate whiteness with beauty and higher social standing. Darker family members are routinely insulted and devalued, while lighter members receive more resources and attention…

Read the entire review here.

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One-Woman Multimedia Show ONE DROP OF LOVE Comes to The Fox Theatre, 9/21

Posted in Arts, Census/Demographics, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Social Science, United States on 2014-08-28 14:55Z by Steven

One-Woman Multimedia Show ONE DROP OF LOVE Comes to The Fox Theatre, 9/21

BroadwayWorld.com Atlanta
2014-07-10

The Fox Theatre is presenting One Drop of Love on Sunday, September 21 at 3 PM and 7 PM in the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom. The show is a multimedia solo performance exploring family, race, love, pain and a path towards reconciliation. Monica Pearson, an active community leader and influencer, will moderate the discussion following both shows. Tickets are $25 and are available for purchase now at www.FoxTheatre.org, by calling 855-285-8499 or at The Fox Theatre Ticket Office.

One Drop of Love is a multimedia one woman show written and performed by the show’s writer/performer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni and is produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. It incorporates film, photographs and animation to examine how “race” has been constructed in the United States and how it can influence our most intimate relationships. The show will take you on a journey from the 1700s to the present spanning locations through the world as 16 characters facilitate reconciliation between a daughter and her father. Immediately following each performance, Fanshen facilitates a Q&A segment.

“Amazing performance, staging, autobiography, artistry and an amazing meditation on race and examination of America,” stated Ben Affleck, show producer and 2013 Academy Award winning actor. “I am in awe.” For more information on One Drop of Love, visit www.onedropoflove.org.

About Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni has been featured in the New York Times and on NPR as a spokesperson on using the arts to explore racial identity. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cape Verde, West Africa, and has designed curricula for and taught English as a Second Language to students from all over the world. She has been honored with the Peace Corps’ Franklin H. Williams Award, and with Peace Corps Fellows and Hollywood Foreign Press Association scholarships. She holds a BA in Spanish and Education, an MA in TESOL, and an MFA in Acting and Performance in Film, TV and Theater. Fanshen is also a proud member of Ensemble Studio Theater/LA Playwrights Unit, and a co-curator of www.MixedRootsStories.org

For more information, click here.

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The United States of the United Races: a rejoinder

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-27 23:09Z by Steven

The United States of the United Races: a rejoinder

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1857-1861
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.932414

Greg Carter, Associate Professor of History
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

I respond to a review by C. Matthew Snipp, revisiting how my book connects abolitionist leanings to acceptance of racial mixing in the Early Republic. I reiterate that, contrary to the reviewer’s claims, the book does not suggest that the defence of interracial marriage has been a thriving social movement. I correct his reading of my chapter on the Civil War era, referring to both the variety of voices present, and the claims of reformers’ opponents, who were the only ones who claimed racial mixing was an aim of the abolitionist movement. Lastly, I defend The United States of the United Races against Professor Snipp’s characterization of it as a work anticipating a ‘post-racial’ ideal, embodied by racially mixed people, who would be the end point of the obsolescence of race as a relevant analytic tool.

Read the entire rejoinder here.

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Utopian visions of racial admixture

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-27 21:19Z by Steven

Utopian visions of racial admixture

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1847-1851
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.932409

C. Matthew Snipp, Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Sociology
Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

In a world unbounded by racial divisions, the choice of a lover, a spouse and the children that come from that union should transcend the schemes devised by others to oppress and exploit. Racial admixtures, to the extent that they blur and obscure entrenched ideas from the past, are things to be celebrated and embraced. Both of these books, as different as they are, embrace the essential value of racial admixture but from very different perspectives, for very different reasons, and with very different emphases.

The United States of the United Races traces the history of interracial relationships in this country. Carter begins his narrative with a close reading of the French author Hector St John de Crèvecoeur. Crèvecoeur penned a very popular work titled Letters from an American Farmer that was intended to describe everyday life in the new nation. Carter’s discussion makes it clear that Crèvecoeur was an opponent of slavery and portrayed it in the vilest possible terms. However, Carter takes Crèvecoeur’s opposition to slavery and tries to make something more of it. Carter writes:

Crèvecoeur’s most important legacy… suggested that true Americans cast off the old ways of their ancestors and consented to a new way of life based on equality. In this, mixture was a positive. The American was new and mixed, just as the society was new and mixed and the way of life was new and mixed. (26, emphasis added)

Carter’s insistence that Crèvecoeur’s abolitionist leanings represent an early endorsement of racial amalgamation is a logical leap for which he provides no justification.

Taking a benign view of this logical lapse, a reader could conjecture that important links in this argument fell victim to an editor’s delete key. However, I dwell on this point because it is the first instance of something that happens in other parts of the book. That is, Carter wishes to convince us that the proponents of racial amalgamation, the formation of intimate personal relationships across racial lines have been a thriving social movement throughout the nation’s history. In places, Carter’s ebullient embrace of this theme causes him to stretch a point that sorely tests a reader’s credulity.

In a similar though subtler fashion, Carter situates the movement for racial amalgamation within the larger movement to abolish slavery. Chapter 2 is titled ‘Wendell Phillips, Unapologetic Abolitionist, Unreformed Amalgamationist’ and focuses on the life of a single abolitionist to assert the centrality of interracial marriage within the movement, invoking the affairs of Frederick Douglass with white women as additional evidence. Carter is careful to point out that ‘racial amalgamation’ was a controversial position and one that could incite violence. This chapter vacillates between making interracial marriage a focal point of the movement to abolish slavery and acknowledging that this was an extremely unpopular position. Nonetheless, the narrative of this chapter too often seeks to make us believe that the freedom to form interracial intimate relationships was one of the core objectives of the abolitionist movement. To be sure, there were abolitionists who subscribed to this view. Carter delivers evidence that at least one existed, but the argument in chapter 2 does little to dispel the view that this was little more than the lunatic fringe of the abolition movement…

What is Your Race? takes on a problem in US public policy that seems poised to only grow more serious over time. Namely, the USA has a set of public policies anchored to a racial classification system with categories that are increasingly out of step with a twenty-first-century experience and understanding of the American racial order. Prewitt has written a policy brief that consists of three parts: (1) it begins by laying out the origins of the existing system; (2) it then turns to the growing problems connected with the status quo; and (3) it concludes with recommendations for modifying the existing system along with a strategy for deploying these recommendations. The book contains eleven chapters and it would not be unfair to say that the first nine chapters are a prologue and justification for chapters 10 and 11. However, before turning to the final and most important chapters of this book, the first nine chapters deserve notice.

The official racial classification used by the federal government does not emanate from the Census Bureau. It is instead, a product of the Office of Management and Budget and articulated in a document known as Directive No. 15 (revised October 1997). Prewitt is well aware of this fact and, indeed, discusses this document at length. However, the focus of this book is on the way that the US Census Bureau collects information about race, and the recommendations that he makes are most applicable to the Census Bureau. This is not surprising partly because Prewitt is a former Census Bureau director. He writes with an insider’s deep knowledge about the workings of this complex organization. More significantly, the Census Bureau is arguably the single largest producer of data about race in the nation. Much if not most of what Americans know about race in their nation originates at the Census Bureau.

Prewitt begins by presenting a concept that he calls ‘statistical races’. Statistical races were first created by the Constitutional mandate that a census be taken every ten years. Constitutional language embedded whites and African American slaves, and excluded American Indians in the first census taken in 1790. In every census since, race has been a prominent feature. Prewitt acknowledges that racism and prejudice are indeed social realities that frame the everyday lives of Americans. However, statistical races, he argues, are classificatory artifacts manipulated to serve public policy interests…

Read the review of both books here.

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The collection of race-based data in the USA: a call for radical change

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-08-27 20:27Z by Steven

The collection of race-based data in the USA: a call for radical change

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1839-1846
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.932407

Peter Aspinall, Emeritus Reader in Population Health
University of Kent, United Kingdom

Two important new books by Greg Carter and Kenneth Prewitt provide detailed historical perspectives on how understandings of race and race categories have evolved since the founding of the republic. Prewitt focuses on an analysis of racial classification in the US census – the so-called ‘statistical races’ –and its changing role in US policy, culminating in recommendations for radical change. Carter takes as his theme population mixing across the races, offering a positive, even celebratory, but little known account of the moments and movements that have praised mixing. As pressures mount on the ‘statistical races’ in the late twentieth century, Prewitt uses the political space opened up by these debates to offer fundamental changes to US methods of ethno-racial data collection, including the removal of these questions from the census. The jury is in recess for further deliberations.

Read the review of both books here.

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Mixed-Race Youth and Schooling: The Fifth Minority

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Teaching Resources, United States on 2014-08-27 14:27Z by Steven

Mixed-Race Youth and Schooling: The Fifth Minority

Routledge
2015-07-31
224 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-13-802191-4
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-13-802193-8

Sandra Winn Tutwiler, Professor of Education
Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas

This timely, in-depth examination of the educational experiences and needs of mixed-race children (“the fifth minority”) focuses on the four contexts that primarily influence learning and development: the family, school, community, and society-at-large.

The book provides foundational historical, social, political, and psychological information about mixed-race children and looks closely at their experiences in schools, their identity formation, and how schools can be made more supportive of their development and learning needs. Moving away from an essentialist discussion of mixed-race children, a wide variety of research is included. Life and schooling experiences of mixed-raced individuals are profiled throughout the text. Rather than pigeonholing children into a neat box of descriptions or providing ready made prescriptions for educators, Mixed-Race Youth and Schooling offers information and encourages teachers to critically reflect on how it is relevant to and helpful in their teaching/learning contexts.

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White Papers

Posted in Autobiography, Books, History, Media Archive, Passing, Poetry, United States on 2014-08-26 19:16Z by Steven

White Papers

University of Pittsburgh Press
January 2012
80 pages
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 9780822961840

Martha Collins

Winner of the 2013 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry

White Papers is a series of untitled poems that explore race from a variety of personal, historical, and cultural perspectives, questioning what it means to be “white” in a multi-racial society.

White Papers is a series of untitled poems that deal with issues of race from a number of personal, historical, and cultural perspectives. Expanding the territory of her 2006 book Blue Front, which focused on a lynching her father witnessed as a child, this book turns, among other things, to Martha Collins’ childhood. Throughout, it explores questions about what it means to be white, not only in the poet’s life, but also in our culture and history, even our pre-history. The styles and forms are varied, as are the approaches; some of the poems address race only implicitly, and the book, like Blue Front, includes some documentary and “found” material. But the focus is always on getting at what it has meant and what it means to be white—to have a race and racial history, much of which one would prefer to forget, if one is white, but all of which is essential to remember and to acknowledge in a multi-racial society that continues to live under the influence of its deeply racist past.

Read a section from the book here.

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A Chosen Exile: History of Racial Passing in American Life

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2014-08-26 18:48Z by Steven

A Chosen Exile: History of Racial Passing in American Life

Harvard University Press
2014-09-15
350 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
26 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674368101

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History
Stanford University

Between the eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, countless African Americans passed as white, leaving behind families and friends, roots and community. It was, as Allyson Hobbs writes, a chosen exile, a separation from one racial identity and the leap into another. This revelatory history of passing explores the possibilities and challenges that racial indeterminacy presented to men and women living in a country obsessed with racial distinctions. It also tells a tale of loss.

As racial relations in America have evolved so has the significance of passing. To pass as white in the antebellum South was to escape the shackles of slavery. After emancipation, many African Americans came to regard passing as a form of betrayal, a selling of one’s birthright. When the initially hopeful period of Reconstruction proved short-lived, passing became an opportunity to defy Jim Crow and strike out on one’s own.

Although black Americans who adopted white identities reaped benefits of expanded opportunity and mobility, Hobbs helps us to recognize and understand the grief, loneliness, and isolation that accompanied—and often outweighed—these rewards. By the dawning of the civil rights era, more and more racially mixed Americans felt the loss of kin and community was too much to bear, that it was time to “pass out” and embrace a black identity. Although recent decades have witnessed an increasingly multiracial society and a growing acceptance of hybridity, the problem of race and identity remains at the center of public debate and emotionally fraught personal decisions.

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