Review: Vic Mensa, ‘The Autobiography’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2017-07-28 15:41Z by Steven

Review: Vic Mensa, ‘The Autobiography’

First Listen: Hear Upcoming Albums in Their Entirety
NPR Music
National Public Radio

Rodney Carmichael, Hip-Hop Reporter

Vic Mensa’s new album, The Autobiography, is out July 28.
Courtesy of the artist

When history ranks 2017 among hip-hop’s wonder years — and from the sounds of the previous six months it certainly qualifies — Vic Mensa’s long-awaited full-length debut will be a big part of the reason why. The Chi-town native has created a work in The Autobiography that’s equal parts confessional and confrontational, gut-wrenching and uplifting. Steeped in a personal story arc that envelopes Mensa’s hometown, it echoes with the pain of a generation.

Courtesy of the artist

It only makes sense that the LP is executive produced by No I.D., who’s already responsible for another of the year’s more revelatory LPs in Jay-Z’s 4:44

Read the entire review here.

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Why You Should Think Twice About Those DNA-By-Mail Results

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History on 2017-07-07 20:36Z by Steven

Why You Should Think Twice About Those DNA-By-Mail Results

Cosmos & Culture: Commentary on Science and Society
National Public Radio

Barbara J. King, Professor Emerita of Anthropology
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia


In a new book, University of North Carolina, Charlotte anthropologist Jonathan Marks says that racism in science is alive and well.

This stands in sharp contrast to creationist thinking, Marks says, which is, like racism, decidedly evident in our society but most certainly not welcome in science.

In Is Science Racist? Marks writes:

“If you espouse creationist ideas in science, you are branded as an ideologue, as a close-minded pseudo-scientist who is unable to adopt a modern perspective, and who consequently has no place in the community of scholars. But if you espouse racist ideas in science, that’s not quite so bad. People might look at you a little askance, but as a racist you can coexist in science alongside them, which you couldn’t do if you were a creationist. Science is racist when it permits scientists who advance racist ideas to exist and to thrive institutionally.”

This is a strong set of claims, and Marks uses numerous examples to support them. For example, a 2014 book by science writer Nicholas Wade used genes and race to explain, as Michael Balter put it in Science magazine, “why some people live in tribal societies and some in advanced civilizations, why African-Americans are allegedly more violent than whites, and why the Chinese may be good at business.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Getting In and Out

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, United States on 2017-06-26 19:12Z by Steven

Getting In and Out

Harper’s Magazine
July 2017

Zadie Smith

Who owns black pain?

Discussed in this essay:

Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele. Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment, and Monkeypaw Productions, 2017. 104 minutes.

Open Casket, by Dana Schutz. 2017 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. March 17–June 11, 2017.

You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
Langston Hughes

Early on, as the opening credits roll, a woodland scene. We’re upstate, viewing the forest from a passing car. Trees upon trees, lovely, dark and deep. There are no people to be seen in this wood—but you get the feeling that somebody’s in there somewhere. Now we switch to a different world. Still photographs, taken in the shadow of public housing: the basketball court, the abandoned lot, the street corner. Here black folk hang out on sun-warmed concrete, laughing, crying, living, surviving. The shots of the woods and those of the city both have their natural audience, people for whom such images are familiar and benign. There are those who think of Fros­tian woods as the pastoral, as America the Beautiful, and others who see summer in the city as, likewise, beautiful and American. One of the marvelous tricks of Jordan Peele’s debut feature, Get Out, is to reverse these constituencies, revealing two separate planets of American fear—separate but not equal. One side can claim a long, distinguished cinematic history: Why should I fear the black man in the city? The second, though not entirely unknown (Deliverance, The Wicker Man), is certainly more obscure: Why should I fear the white man in the woods?…

…We have been warned not to get under one another’s skin, to keep our distance. But Jordan Peele’s horror-fantasy—in which we are inside one another’s skin and intimately involved in one another’s suffering—is neither a horror nor a fantasy. It is a fact of our experience. The real fantasy is that we can get out of one another’s way, make a clean cut between black and white, a final cathartic separation between us and them. For the many of us in loving, mixed families, this is the true impossibility. There are people online who seem astounded that Get Out was written and directed by a man with a white wife and a white mother, a man who may soon have—depending on how the unpredictable phenotype lottery goes—a white-appearing child. But this is the history of race in America. Families can become black, then white, then black again within a few generations. And even when Americans are not genetically mixed, they live in a mixed society at the national level if no other. There is no getting out of our intertwined history…

Read the entire review here.

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The Old Problems of “New People”

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-06-22 14:29Z by Steven

The Old Problems of “New People”

New Republic

Morgan Jerkins

Courtesy Riverhead Books.

Danzy Senna’s new novel examines the ambivalent privileges of passing.

Danzy Senna, New People, A Novel (New York: Riverhead, 2017)

It is 1996 in Brooklyn. The crime rate is on the decline, artists are fleeing Manhattan and its staggering rents for neighborhoods such as DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, immigrants are flocking to the borough, and you could still buy a brownstone for under $500,000. This is also the year of the Fugees’s iconic album The Score, Lil Kim’s Hardcore, Foxy Brown’s Ill Na Na, and Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. The era was one of creativity, movement, and rapid innovation, making it fertile ground for the racial dynamics explored in Danzy Senna’s highly anticipated third novel, New People. In a decade when the country had witnessed the Rodney King beating, the Los Angeles Riots, and the O.J. Simpson trial, racial tension were at an all-time high. This is not the time to try and escape one’s race. But there are Black Americans whose trauma from decades of racism leads them to cultivate themselves into a world of the light-skinned elite, and a world where they hope they will be safer, more compatible with the American Dream.

This is the world in which we meet Maria Pierce and Khalil Mirsky, two light-skinned, mixed race black people who want it all and are on track to get it: a Brooklyn brownstone, a wedding at a lighthouse in Martha’s Vineyard with nouveau soul food, a dog named Thurgood, and two children “with skin the color of burnished leather” and “hair the color of spun gold” named Indigo and Cheo. Maria and Khalil met at Stanford, where they fell in love over conversations about interracial dating and misogyny in hip-hop, Giovanni’s Room and Cosby episodes, chicken and waffles. Now, Khalil, a part-time technology consultant, is about to take advantage of the dot-com boom by creating an online community of black “modern tribalism” with his friend, while Maria spends her days finishing up her dissertation on the Jonestown Massacre. It’s perfect. Until it isn’t…

Read the entire review here.

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A boy caught between love and race

Posted in Arts, Book/Video Reviews, United States on 2017-06-22 00:28Z by Steven

A boy caught between love and race

The Washington Post

Ausma Zehanat Khan

Thrity Umrigar, the author (Robert Muller)

Thrity Umrigar, Everybody’s Son, A Novel (New York: HarperCollins, 2017)

The premise of Thrity Umrigar’s new novel, “Everybody’s Son,” is straightforward: a wealthy white family whose son has died adopts a black child from the projects. Through this disturbing yet evocative tale, Umrigar — best known for her books “The Space Between Us” and “The World We Found” — offers a troubling look at race and the conflicting desires of two families.

At the center of the story is Anton Vesper, a little boy whose mother, Juanita, is addicted to crack. She left Anton alone in a hot basement for days before he broke out and is rescued by the local police. Shortly thereafter, Anton meets a judge named David Coleman who happens to be struggling with the loss of his own child. In Anton, Coleman sees a charismatic child. He decides to bring Anton home, almost as a consolation prize for his grieving wife, Delores…

…Though Coleman is treated sympathetically throughout the novel, he is shadowed by his corrupt morality. There is no eluding it: Coleman destroyed a woman’s life by taking her child and using his wealth, power and whiteness against her. He has also robbed a child of his heritage, raising difficult questions for readers to ponder:

Would Coleman have wanted Anton if he were a dark-skinned black child, if he hadn’t been able to blend so effortlessly into his world? We later learn that Anton is bi-racial, perhaps explaining this. Would a black mother view blackness as a curse that a white man’s wealth and status could provide compensation for?…

Read the entire review here.

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Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama and the Limitations of Liberal Criticism

Posted in Barack Obama, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Videos on 2017-06-13 20:30Z by Steven

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama and the Limitations of Liberal Criticism


Jared A. Ball, Host and Professor of Communication Studies
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

Authors Dr. Todd Steven Burroughs and Paul Street discuss their reviews of David Garrow‘s Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama.  We also discussed the liberal limitations of Garrow’s criticism and the omission of Left critiques by “alternative” and “Left” media outlets.

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A Long, Long Look at Obama’s Life, Mostly Before the White House

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-06-13 17:30Z by Steven

A Long, Long Look at Obama’s Life, Mostly Before the White House

Books of The Times
The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani, Chief Book Critic

The Making of Barack Obama

By David J. Garrow
1,460 pages. William Morrow. $45.

Rising Star,” the voluminous 1,460-page biography of Barack Obama by David J. Garrow, is a dreary slog of a read: a bloated, tedious and — given its highly intemperate epilogue — ill-considered book that is in desperate need of editing, and way more exhausting than exhaustive.

Many of the more revealing moments in this volume will be familiar to readers of Obama’s own memoir, “Dreams From My Father”; a host of earlier books about Obama and his family; and myriad profiles of the former president that have appeared in newspapers and magazines over the years. Garrow has turned up little that’s substantially new — save for identifying and interviewing an old girlfriend from Obama’s early Chicago years, who claims that by 1987, “he already had his sights on becoming president.”

In the absence of thoughtful analysis or a powerful narrative through line, Garrow’s book settles for barraging the reader with a cascade of details — seemingly in hopes of creating a kind of pointillist picture. The problem is that all these data points never connect to form an illuminating portrait; the book does not open out to become the sort of resonant narrative that Robert A. Caro and Ron Chernow have pioneered, in which momentous historical events are deftly recreated, and a subject’s life is situated in a time and a place. Instead, Garrow has expended a huge amount of energy — his bibliography, including interviews with more than a thousand people, runs to 35 pages — on giving us minutely detailed accounts of early chapters of Obama’s life, like his years at Harvard Law School, his time in Chicago as a community organizer, and his work in the Illinois State Senate. Garrow gets to Obama’s presidency only in an epilogue…

…It’s odd that Garrow should seize on one former lover’s anger and hurt, and try to turn them into a Rosebud-like key to the former president’s life, referring to her repeatedly in his epilogue. He even tries to turn her perception — about Obama’s having willed himself into being — into a pejorative, when the act of self-invention, as other biographers have noted, was the enterprising and existential act of a young man who essentially had been abandoned by both his black father and white mother, and who found himself caught between cultures and trying, as he wrote in “Dreams,” “to raise myself to be a black man in America.”…

Read the entire review here.

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A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, by Allyson Hobbs [Eggers Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-05-29 02:00Z by Steven

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, by Allyson Hobbs

The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research
Volume 47, 2017 – Issue 2: After Madiba: Black Studies in South Africa
Pages 73-76
DOI: 10.1080/00064246.2017.1295355

Fabian Eggers, MA candidate of North American Studies
John F. Kennedy Institute at Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany

Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile: History of Racial Passing in American Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014)

Read or purchase the review here.

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Youth and Empire: Trans-Colonial Childhoods in British and French Asia by David Pomfret (review)

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive on 2017-05-14 22:16Z by Steven

Youth and Empire: Trans-Colonial Childhoods in British and French Asia by David Pomfret (review)

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
Volume 10, Number 2, Spring 2017
pages 271-273

Molly J. Giblin, Instructor
University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee

Youth and Empire: Trans-Colonial Childhoods in British and French Asia.
By David Pomfret.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015. 416pp. Cloth $65.

While colonial cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Saigon, and Hanoi were home to relatively small numbers of Europeans in comparison to the settler colonies of Algeria, Australia, or New Zealand, David Pomfret’s Youth and Empire argues that childhood in these spaces served as a touchstone upon which regimes of race and hierarchies of power were negotiated. Pomfret’s sociocultural history explores the role of childhood in British and French colonial urban centers in Asia. Because youth epitomized both the physical and figurative vulnerability of Europeans in the tropics, attempts to regulate childhood mirrored the efforts of French and British colonial authorities to safeguard the future of a European project in the East. Colonial subjects used childhood, children, and child-rearing to delineate boundaries of identity, thus bringing together everyday life and high-level policymaking.

Pomfret builds upon work by such scholars as Ann Laura Stoler, Elizabeth Buettner, Julia Clancy Smith, and Frances Gouda, who have articulated how imperial authority pivoted around constellations of sex, gender, domesticity, and the family. He unites the children of the colonized and of colonizers within a single but capacious analytical framework that allows him to contrast the productive (but potentially dangerous) malleability of the European child with the perpetual infantilization of Asian colonial subjects. Pomfret examines how childhood itself was at the fulcrum of the European colonial project in Asia because it worked in tandem with parallel hierarchies of race, gender, and civilization. The scope of the project—stretching between two empires and across spaces within them—creates a challenge that Pomfret rises to meet. He recognizes that conceptions of childhood were constructed and shifting within Europe as well as in its overseas territories. Nonetheless, he manages to draw broad conclusions across imperial lines while pointing to moments of divergence, showing how local cultures weighed differently upon the demands of colonial prestige, expectations of age, and racial seclusion. In an anthropologically informed argument, he demonstrates that confluences in policy and perception were due in part to cross-cultural perceptions of youth, but more importantly, grew out of pan-imperial conversations about whiteness, race, and cultural hygiene.

Pomfret’s wide-ranging study is based upon artful readings of published and archival sources that span the globe and two centuries of colonial history. Because Pomfret evaluates childhood from the standpoint of colonial management, potential paths of inquiry remain somewhat underdeveloped. Perhaps due to constraints of language, most of Pomfret’s historical informants are European. He demonstrates that “local pressures ensured that colonial childhoods developed quite different meanings and parameters on the ground” (53). However, such pressures seem to be grounded in administrative exigencies or national prejudices. What of indigenous ones? While he does attempt to draw indigenous voices out of European sources and is alert to trans-racial physical and emotional connections expressed within them, only in the last third of the book does the reader encounter substantive discussions of any of the non-European participants involved in ordering childhood. Though he refers many times to interaction with Asian wives, amahs, wet nurses, students, and medical practitioners, they are for the most part spectral, serving as foils against which the subjectivities of European childhood were assembled. His sophisticated analysis of the twin discourses of childhood and infantilization becomes somewhat muted by too-neat distinctions between early assimilationist and later associationist French policy, and he overly insists on the pervasiveness of the “decivilizing” critiques that Europeans leveled against Chinese in the nineteenth century (28). Moreover, Pomfret’s tendency to ventriloquize Asian responses risks replicating the discourses that he claims to analyze. Likewise, Pomfret’s multicentered approach shows how people and ideas moved across imperial spaces. Yet he does not linger upon existing codes of kinship (Confucian and otherwise) that would likely have coexisted in the multiethnic cities of Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Pomfret does touch upon widespread European ideas about the antiquity of East Asian cultures. However, he argues, that narrative contributed to an emphasis on how cultural failings (such as a lack of…

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Review: In ‘Little Boxes,’ a Biracial Family Meets a White Town

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2017-04-23 18:14Z by Steven

Review: In ‘Little Boxes,’ a Biracial Family Meets a White Town

The New York Times

Neil Genzlinger, Television Critic

From left, Nelsan Ellis, Armani Jackson and Melanie Lynskey in “Little Boxes,” about a biracial family’s move from Brooklyn to small-town America.
Credit Mark Doyle/Gunpowder & Sky Distribution

Little Boxes,” a mildly comic story about a biracial family that relocates to an exceedingly white town, feels a bit out of phase, but it’s delicately observed and does a nice job of staying within itself. It avoids the big confrontation or grand statement; doing so allows it to be an effective, if somewhat uneventful, study of the Brooklyn bubble effect.

Gina (Melanie Lynskey), who is white, and Mack (Nelsan Ellis), who is black, move from trendy and comfortably diverse Brooklyn so that she can take a new job in a small town in Washington State. Their son, Clark (Armani Jackson), is getting ready to start sixth grade…

Read the entire review here.

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