America’s sex and race failure: Why Raven-Symone and an Ohio couple are struggling

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-10 18:07Z by Steven

America’s sex and race failure: Why Raven-Symone and an Ohio couple are struggling

Salon
2014-10-08

Brittney Cooper, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

How a TV star shunning labels, and a lesbian couple with a Black baby illustrate the fight to assert one’s humanity

This week, iconic Cosby (grand)kid Raven-Symoné caught up with Oprah, telling her in an interview: “I don’t want to be labeled gay… I’m a human who loves other humans. …I’m American not African American.  I don’t know what country I’m from in Africa, but I do know I have roots in Louisiana. I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person.” It would be tempting to frame these recent remarks on race and gay identity from the Cosby Show and Disney star as just more ideal and myopic millennial musings on race. But I think her comments tell us something about the operations of contemporary notions of the “human” that are worth unpacking.

Let me begin by saying that using one’s Louisiana roots is perhaps the worst place to begin in an argument about how the term “American” is a “color-less” one. Both sides of my family have lived in Louisiana since the earliest census records I could find. That census, the 1870 census was the first to record the names of all the black people that had been freed within the last decade. With great care, citizens were designated with a “C,” “M,” or “W,” for “colored,” “mulatto” and “white” respectively. Well into the late 20th century, my grandmother referred to Black people as colored.

Certainly, Raven-Symoné’s arguments bear the trace of the postracial rhetoric so prominent among certain (though not all) segments of millennials.  But her desire to not acknowledge or carry the “African” designation in “African-American” is far from new. To be clear, many Black people who are Americans, are not “African American” in the sense that we mean that term today, namely as native born Black people. Voluntary rather than forced migrations of diasporic Black people from the Caribbean and from West Africa have been a characteristic of the U.S. Black population since the early 20th century.  The side eye I’m giving to Raven-Symoné is not about a desire to demand that all Black people in the U.S. take on the moniker “African American,” but rather about the fact that her framing suggests that it is the connection of Africa to blackness that has her wanting to disavow a hyphenated identity…

…Among the many things I find troubling in her statement is the idea that America is color-less. It is a society built on a foundational color schema in which black skin is figured as the condition for unfreedom and white skin as the condition for freedom. Louisiana itself had a notoriously restrictive definition of the one drop rule as Dr. Yaba Blay discusses in her book “One-Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race,” Louisiana law classified all people with “one-thirty-second or less” of Negro blood would be “deemed, described, or designated” officially as ‘colored, ‘mulatto,’ ‘black,’ ‘negro,’ ‘griffe,’ “Afro-American,’ ‘quadroon,’ ‘mestizo,” ‘colored person,’ or ‘person of color.’ Well into the 1980s, i.e. well into Raven Symoné’s lifetime, this law was used to designate putatively white people as black…

…This kind of rhetorical move is also salient coming on the heels of recent reports of an Ohio lesbian couple opting to sue their sperm bank for erroneously giving them black donor sperm.  I get suing for negligence and shoddy service. But for this queer couple, the presence of their Black daughter disrupts their ability to exist comfortably in the space of whiteness that defines their community, a community that they admit is deeply homophobic. Having chosen to be a queer family in the midst of a heteronormative white universe in Ohio, their Black child has now disrupted their access to white power and privilege. This biracial black girl is growing up with distraught, devastated queer parents who love her despite her blackness. Having internalized antiblackness, they note their discomfort with taking her to a black neighborhood for haircuts and their fear of the racist reprisal of neighbors and family members…

Read the entire article here.

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Cramblett vs. Midwest Sperm Bank

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-07 19:07Z by Steven

Cramblett vs. Midwest Sperm Bank

Marley-Vincent Lindsey
2014-10-07

Marley-Vincent Lindsey

I. Narratives and Political Order

On September 29, Jennifer L. Cramblett filed a suit against the Midwest Sperm Bank for “Wrongful Birth and Breach of Warranty against Defendant.” Where the expecting couple had picked a “blond hair blue-eyed individual” to resemble the non-biological partner, the mix-up had led to the conception of a bi-racial child. The basic grounds for the lawsuit are described in sections eight through sixteen. To summarize, the Sperm Bank had confused two sets of donors: Donor 380 and Donor 330. The confusion is explained in Section 21: “[The Records] are kept in pen and ink. To the person who sent Jennifer vials of sperm in September, 2011, the number “380” looked like “330,” and there are no redundancies to catch errors.”

Simply put, wrongful birth cases are a form of tort in which the claim for damages is based on the cost to parents of raising an “unexpectedly defective child.” Indeed, the term “defective child” is all over the relevant cases. “Wrongful Birth” on a whole has a long history of being associated with the parent’s right to information about their child before carrying it to term. In the words of BGD [Black Girl Dangerous]: “90 percent of fetuses testing positive for Down Syndrome will be aborted in the US. Eugenics cannot be our answer to ableism; advancing disability rights and justice should be.”

I don’t think this perspective ties us to the elimination of wrongful birth entirely. As one of the cases I’ll discuss later demonstrates, there are extreme cases in which a child may never live to see their fifth birthday. On a whole, however, wrongful birth is reflective of a structural consistency within systems to normalize their subjects. One of the many objectives of colonial ontologies is creating environments in which normalcy, through a number of repetitive subjects is preserved, at the cost not only of the value of diversity, but also the ability of subjects to make educated decisions about their own value. This is why I have a very difficult time assessing the development of colonial mentality in colonized subjects, despite the fact that most activists are ready to write such subjects off…

…I further have a specific interest in this regard: as a multi-racial child living with a white mother, I no doubt have a very close experience to what Peyton may know throughout her childhood. It is too easy to dismiss this narrative as simply one in which blackness is imposed on an otherwise white family. I think this is a mistake largely stemming from the structural intent on erasing multi-racial experiences. One only need recall the vitriol a certain Cheerios advertisement met to gain sense of mainstream conception of the mixed family. Calling again, Hardt and Negri, their chapter entitled “Symptoms of Passage” focuses on the irony in the relationship between postmodernism and Empire. Namely, that the former fails by only addressing the symptoms of the problem—the lack of pluralism in contemporary discourse, as an example—and completely misses the cause, which is the passage of power. In light of this chapter, I would suggest that the transition in contemporary race issues has been one in which the liberation movements of the late twentieth century sought to replicate the same power structures without regard to how those power structures would impact others…

Read the entire article here.

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Lawsuit: Wrong sperm delivered to lesbian couple

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, United States on 2014-10-01 16:44Z by Steven

Lawsuit: Wrong sperm delivered to lesbian couple

The Chicago Tribune
2014-10-01

Meredith Rodriguez, Tribune reporter

A white Ohio woman is suing a Downers Grove-based sperm bank, alleging that the company mistakenly gave her vials from an African-American donor, a fact that she said has made it difficult for her and her same-sex partner to raise their now 2-year-old daughter in an all-white community.

Jennifer Cramblett, of Uniontown, Ohio, alleges in the lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court that Midwest Sperm Bank sent her the vials of an African-American donor’s sperm in September 2011 instead of those of a white donor that she and her white partner had ordered.

After searching through pages of comprehensive histories for their top three donors, the lawsuit claims, Cramblett and her domestic partner, Amanda Zinkon, chose donor No. 380, who was also white. Their doctor in Ohio received vials from donor No. 330, who is African-American, the lawsuit said.

Cramblett, 36, learned of the mistake in April 2012, when she was pregnant and ordering more vials so that the couple could have another child with sperm from the same donor, according to the lawsuit. The sperm bank delivered vials from the correct donor in August 2011, but Cramblett later requested more vials, according to the suit…

…”On August 21, 2012, Jennifer gave birth to Payton, a beautiful, obviously mixed-race baby girl,” the lawsuit states. “Jennifer bonded with Payton easily and she and Amanda love her very much. Even so, Jennifer lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future.”

Raising a mixed-race daughter has been stressful in Cramblett and Zinkon’s small, all-white community, according to the suit. Cramblett was raised around people with stereotypical attitudes about nonwhites, the lawsuit states, and did not know African-Americans until she attended college at the University of Akron…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Mondays Film Series at the Brooklyn Historical Society

Posted in Canada, Communications/Media Studies, Gay & Lesbian, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States, Videos, Women on 2014-08-18 02:25Z by Steven

Mixed Mondays Film Series at the Brooklyn Historical Society

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generatons
Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Mondays, 2014-08-04 through  2014-08-18, 18:30 EDT (Local Time)

Hosted by and post-screening discussion with:

Erica Chito Childs, Professor of Sociology (author of Navigating Interracial Borders and Fade to Black and White: Interracial Images in Popular Culture)
City University of New York

This series is co-sponsored by MixedRaceStudies.org.

August 18: Toasted Marshmallows (2014)

Come watch the first public screening of the documentary Toasted Marshmallows in the U.S.! Follow filmmakers Marcelitte Failla and Anoushka Ratnarajah on a journey across Canada and the U.S. as they document the experiences of other mixed-race identified women, delve into their own cultural and ethnic histories, and tell stories about color, passing, privilege, ancestry, and belonging. An extended preview of the film will be followed by a dialogue with the filmmakers and Erica Chito-Childs.

August 11: My Beautiful Laundrette (1985):

British-born, half-Pakistani playwright and novelist Hanif Kureishi won an Oscar nomination for his 1985 screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette, a richly layered film about Pakistani immigrant life in Thatcherite London.

Come watch the protagonist, Omar, navigate mixed-income and mixed-race arrangements in his family and develop an unlikely, yet beautiful, queer relationship with Johnny (Daniel Day Lewis). Set against the backdrop of anti-immigrant racism and fascism, the story of Omar’s laundrette presents an electrifying set of possibilities around class, race, sexuality, belonging, and love.

August 4: Imitation of Life (1959):

The Mixed Monday film series launches with a 1959 Lana Turner classic—Imitation of Lifewhich explores the story of an African-American woman and her light-skinned, mixed-race daughter who passes for white. Come munch on popcorn, watch the film and discuss the history and cultural context around mixed families, race relations and popular culture.

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Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 by Dagmar Schultz (review)

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2014-05-05 17:30Z by Steven

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 by Dagmar Schultz (review)

African Studies Review
Volume 57, Number 1, April 2014
pages 237-238
DOI: 10.1353/arw.2014.0038

Patricia-Pia Célérier, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 is a 79-minute documentary in English and German, directed and produced by Dagmar Schultz. An academic and close friend of Lorde’s, Schultz also co-edited (with May Opitz and Katharina Oguntoye) the book Farbe Bekennen: Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte (1986; translated as Showing our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out, University of Massachusetts Press, 1991), which marked the beginning of the “Afro-German movement.” Schultz contributed her own archival video and audio recordings and footage to the documentary, adding testimonies from Lorde’s colleagues, students, and friends. Released in 2012, twenty years after Lorde’s death, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 is an homage to the African American writer’s tremendous contributions as well as a useful complement to two other documentaries: A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde (1995) by Ada Gray Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, and The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde (2002) by Jennifer Abod. Schultz’s film has attracted significant attention and received the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Barcelona Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 focuses on an understudied period in the life of the prolific author and activist, the time when she traveled between the U.S. and Germany to lecture and visit friends. It features her relationship to the black diaspora and her mentoring role in the development of the antiracist struggle and the Afro-German movement before and after the German reunification. In true feminist fashion, the documentary links the personal and the political, representing Lorde’s ongoing fight against cancer, her inspiring presence at feminist consciousness-raising meetings, her carefree dancing at multiracial lesbian parties, and her partnership with the poet Gloria I. Joseph.

The film highlights Lorde’s part in building bridges among women of color, feminist, and LGBT social justice movements, in “hyphenating” black Germans. In doing so, it contextualizes the history of major cultural shifts in the late ’80s/early ’90s in Germany. It speaks to audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with Lorde’s work by articulating themes that are at the core of the writer’s production: for instance, the meaning of intimacy and sharing, and the radical role a creative understanding of difference plays in personal and intellectual growth.

Although valuable as a testimonial and politically committed film, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 unfortunately lacks a strong coherent form, its point of view neither sufficiently clear nor technically grounded. Because the filmmaker does not provide a theoretical or narrative perspective (apart from documenting Lorde’s life), the archival images and interviews overtake the film, which in turn seems dated, as if it had been produced twenty years ago. The viewer is not pulled into the story early enough, and the editing does not compensate imaginatively for the somewhat haphazard manner with which the documentary proceeds.

Should we consider, nevertheless, that the historical and political value of such a film overrides issues of filmic quality and narrative coherence, especially because it was made on a tight budget and is a labor of love? A documentary cannot be considered as merely reproducing cultural (feminist, Afro-German, LGBT) meaning, but also as creating (new) meaning. Unfortunately, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 does not sufficiently demonstrate an awareness of the different ways of understanding and theorizing women’s lives that are available today. As a recording of social life and a travelogue, it does accomplish the two goals of the documentary genre: it informs and educates. Like feminist films of the 1970s, it celebrates the clamor of women’s voices and the rising up of women of color and gay women. It sheds light on the diversity of women’s lifestyles and choices and the issues in gay politics. But how do these images of Lorde inform our current understanding of feminism and feminist practices? What spaces does Lorde’s legacy occupy today? These questions are not answered by the film. In addition, because it does not suggest an awareness of the discursive and technical changes that have advanced the…

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Zines from the Borderlands: Storytelling about Mixed-Heritage

Posted in Forthcoming Media, Gay & Lesbian, Live Events, United States on 2014-03-26 17:20Z by Steven

Zines from the Borderlands: Storytelling about Mixed-Heritage

Brooklyn Historical Society
Great Hall
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, New York
2014-04-24, 19:00-21:00 EST (Local Time)

How can zines create new narratives and representations for mixed-heritage people, LGBTQ communities, and people of color who are stereotyped or ignored in mainstream media?

What is the role of zines, DIY and self-publishing within marginalized communities?

How can zine culture open up space for intersectional conversations about identity and cultural hybridity?

Come participate in a vibrant conversation about race, gender, sexuality and media with four zinesters, activists and media-makers. Multimedia panel presentations will touch on themes such as: telling inclusive and intersectional stories; DIY and self-publishing; zine creation, production, and distribution; leveraging zine culture for racial and LGBTQ justice and movement building, and more.

Panelists include:

For more information, click here.

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Diversity reaches new levels in Honey Maid ads

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, United States on 2014-03-11 22:48Z by Steven

Diversity reaches new levels in Honey Maid ads

USA Today
2014-03-10

Bruce Horovitz, Marketing Reporter

Honey Maid is the latest brand to launch an ad campaign featuring interracial, gay families.  USA TODAY

America’s biggest brands are at an advertising crossroads, and the new diversity that their ads project has suddenly emerged as one of society’s most visual — if not incendiary — flash points.

And it’s about to explode.

It began with several recent, high-profile diverse TV spots from two multibillion-dollar brands: a Cheerios spot staring a biracial girl with white mom and black dad; and a Coca-Cola spot featuring minorities singing America the Beautiful in their native languages. Both went viral and left trails of social media venom in their wake.

On Monday, Honey Maid will jump on the diversity bandwagon with a far-reaching campaign by the 90-year-old graham cracker brand that raises the use of diversity in mainstream ads to a whole new level.

In one 30-second Honey Maid ad, viewers will see everything from a same-sex couple bottle-feeding their son to an interracial couple and their three kids holding hands. The ad also features a Hispanic mother and an African-American father with their three mixed-race children. And there’s even a father covered in body tattoos. This is not some shockvertisement for Benetton. It’s an ad for one of America’s oldest and most familiar brands. The people in it are not actors, but real families. The message of the ad: These are wholesome families enjoying wholesome snacks…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Chinese, on the Inside’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-03-05 01:44Z by Steven

‘Chinese, on the Inside’

The New York Times
2014-03-03

Liz Mak, writer and multimedia producer
Oakland, California

Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand.

About a decade ago, Barbara Cough adopted two girls from China, Kimberly and Catie. Barbara and her partner, Marilyn Thomas, are raising the children in Portland, Me. I filmed the family last year when the girls (who are not biological sisters) were ages 9 and 11.

More than 80,000 girls have been adopted from China by Americans since 1991. In recent years, China has made adoptions by same-sex couples, already difficult, nearly impossible.

But at the time the girls were adopted, in 2003 and 2004, Barbara and Marilyn felt that adopting girls from China afforded them more protections as parents than domestic adoptions would have, given the complex rules around birth parents’ rights in America.

For Barbara, it was also a way to reconnect with her own history: her great-grandfather Daniel Cough was the first Chinese man in Maine to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Though Barbara’s generation is only one-eighth Chinese, the family members proudly identify with their cultural heritage…

Read the opinion piece and watch the video here.

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The Trouble with Transcendence: Is Defying the Gender Binary the New Racial Passing?

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Law, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-01-25 09:54Z by Steven

The Trouble with Transcendence: Is Defying the Gender Binary the New Racial Passing?

Nursing Clio: Because the Personal is Historical
2014-01-21

Mallory Nicole Davis
University of Oregon

In 2010, Thomas Araguz III, a Texas firefighter died on the job, leaving behind his two children and transgender wife, Nikki.[1] The couple was legally married because although the state of Texas only recognizes heterosexual marriages, the state will validate a transgender union if the trans partner’s identification documents dictate that s/he is the opposite legal sex of the spouse.[2] However, when Nikki sought survivor benefits after her husband’s unexpected death, Thomas’ family launched a case against Nikki, stating that Thomas did not know his wife was transgender. The suit argued that Nikki wrongfully deceived her husband, while lobbying for the nullification of their marriage and subsequently, Nikki’s request for spousal benefits. The case was complicated further by the prosecuting attorney’s interrogation of a deposition taken from Thomas in a separate court case—a battle over custody of his two sons with his ex-wife—in which he stated that he did not know that Nikki was transgender.[3] In response to the scrutinizing of her late husband’s statement, Nikki insisted that Thomas lied during his deposition and pretended to be unaware of her transgender status in order maintain custody of his two small children. Nikki stated, “At the time, Thomas and I thought it was in the best interest of our children to lie. They were the center of (our) lives”.[4] Whether Nikki neglected to disclose her trans identity to her husband or that the couple collectively decided to lie to the court during their custody case for the sake of their children, deception surrounding Nikki’s trans status is at the center of this legal case; and undoubtedly, her credibility will be diminished regardless of how the court decides…

Passing is a term typically used to denote a person’s ability to move imperceptibly across racial lines, though the word is equally fitting to describe a trans* person’s ability to transgress the gender binary. Nikki’s perceived deceptions echoes the case of Alice and Leonard Rhinelander, an interracial couple who were married in 1924 who made national headlines because Alice, a light-skinned African-American woman, passed for white and married into the affluent Rhinelander family.[5] When negative press threatened to tarnish the Rhinelander family name, Leonard disappeared without warning and filed for an annulment, claiming that Alice misled him by presenting herself as a white woman. Ultimately, it was proved that Leonard had, in fact, known that Alice was African-American, and Alice counter-sued Leonard for abandonment. Although the Rhinelander family ended up offering Alice a monetary settlement upon her agreement to a divorce, the character attacks launched on Alice and her family, based upon her alleged racial deception were devastating. And like Nikki, Alice’s identity came under fire in a torrential court case only after the transcendent nature of her identity proved threatening to the family of her husband…

Read the entire article here.

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The trouble with ‘passing’ for another race/sexuality/religion…

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2014-01-02 21:50Z by Steven

The trouble with ‘passing’ for another race/sexuality/religion…

The Guardian
2014-01-02

Koa Beck
Brooklyn, New York

The broadening of the definition historically used for those of mixed-race who ‘passed’ as white exposes the power of privilege

Racial passing“, or “passing”, was originally coined to define the experience of mixed raced individuals, particularly in America, who were accepted as a member of a different racial group, namely white. Although passing dates all the way back to the 18th century, the term didn’t prominently surface in the American lexicon until around the 19th century, specifically with a slew of literature. Mark Twain and Charles Chesnutt were among the early American novelists to explore this phenomenon, but Nella Larson’s 1929 novel Passing was the first English language book to explicitly brand itself with the term.

Many years and an entire civil rights movement later, passing still carries a largely racially charged definition – especially for me. As an American biracial woman who passes as white, I live daily with a pronounced array of privileges that are coupled with the assumption that I am white. But my passing isn’t just limited to my racial identity. I’ve also spent several chapters of my young adulthood unwillingly passing as something else: straight. A fairly conventional femininity has imbued me – at least at first glance – with heterosexual privilege, even though I’m partnered to a woman.

And I’m not alone. As LGBTQ rights continue to become more visible, complications within identity continue to overlap with the collective and individual experience of passing. The result is that passing has greatly expanded over the last century from its original racial roots to include many marginalised identities, underscoring intersectionality within American identity…

Read the entire article here.

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