The problems with Rachel Dolezal and the social construction of race

Posted in Gay & Lesbian, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2015-06-22 00:25Z by Steven

The problems with Rachel Dolezal and the social construction of race

Nerding Out with Dorian Warren

Dorian Warren, Host and Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
Columbia University, New York, New York

Christina Greer, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Fordham University, The Jesuit University of New York

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History
Stanford University

Joseph Lowndes, Associate Professor of Political Sciences
University of Oregon

Dorian Warren talks with professors Allyson Hobbs, Christina Greer, and Joseph Lowndes about what the social construction of race does and does not mean in the case of Rachel Dolezal. Plus, writer and advocate Parker Molloy speaks on what the media gets wrong when it compares the experiences of the transgender community to those of Rachel Dolezal.

Watch the interview (00:50:52) here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-05-18 16:52Z by Steven

The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 46, Number 1, Summer 2015
pages 109-111

Ruth Clifford Engs, Professor Emeritus of Applied Health Science
Indiana University, Bloomington

Sussman, Robert Wald, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Sussman’s stated purpose in the introduction to this book is to “describe the history of our myth of race and racism” (3). However, a few pages later, he admits that he has not done archival research himself but instead has “depended upon the published works of many historians, biographers, and philosophers” (9). In other words, he is basing his premises upon secondary sources that may have their own biases. He does not present a hypothesis or even a research question but boldly states what he is trying to find and backs up his thesis with interpretations that support it. This methodology could be considered historiographical research. However, rarely does he compare the interpretation of one historian with that of another in an objective manner or compare interpretations from one time period to those from another, as other historiographical researchers usually do. Researchers in the past, or present, who do not agree with his conclusions are considered “racists” or part of “the eugenic bigot brigade.” The research methods in Sussman’s work cannot be deemed historical precisely because it uses few primary sources.

Sussman suggests that for a number of years, most researchers in the fields of biology, anthropology, and genetics have agreed that biological “races” do not exist among modern humans and that race is a cultural construct, albeit with phenotypical differences among population groups. In this work, you “can’t tell a book by its cover” or, in this case, its title, since the book’s main emphasis is the evolution of the nineteenth-century hereditarian and early twentieth-century eugenics movements and its leaders and detractors into contemporary times. The book focuses on what Sussman perceives to be “racist” researchers and organizations—those who suggest the possibility of biological differences between human population groups. It glorifies the anthropological school of Franz Boas and discusses the hidden agenda of obscure philanthropic groups to re-institute immigration-restriction reform or rescind voting rights from minorities in contemporary American society.

Chapter I introduces two early concepts of race since the Middle Ages that recur throughout the book—the pre-Adamite (polygenism) and degenerate (monogenism) theories. The pre-Adamites believed that races, other than whites, were created before Adam and Eve and that they were biologically fixed. Degenerate theory suggested that environment influenced “racial” characteristics, and that all humans were created by God, though non-whites were inferiors who needed guidance from whites. The chapter discusses the many early eighteenth-and nineteenth-century scientists and thinkers who embraced these various theories, including John Locke, Carl Linnaeus, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Arthur de Gobineau, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, and Francis Galton, among others.

Chapter 2 and 3 detail the early twentieth-century, American eugenics movement with a focus on various leaders, including Madison Grant, Charles Davenport, Henry Osborn, Harry Laughlin, and Henry Goddard, discussing their influence on the immigration-restriction movement, iq tests, and negative eugenics, characterized by sterilization. Sussman also covers such organizations as the Eugenics Records Office and the Galton Society, as well as international eugenic conferences and related issues. In his opinion, the entire eugenics movement amounts to “blatant racism” (85). He is silent about the fact that many aspects of the eugenics movement were intertwined with early twentieth-century public-health measures that sought to improve the health of the American people—regardless of ethnicity—by raising public awareness of tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and alcohol/drug abuse and by promoting exercise, clean water, good nutrition, personal hygiene, healthy children, immunization, etc.

Chapter 4, in which Sussman shows the interlinking of American with German eugenics, portrays the various leaders of the German eugenics movement, including Ernst Rüdin, Eugen Fischer, Fritz Lenz, Alfred Ploetz, and Otmar von Verschurer, through the end of Nazi Germany and World War II. Chapter 5 treats Boas’ development of the concept of culture and its effect on human populations. Chapter 6 goes into greater detail about cultural anthropology and covers the conflict between various schools of thought, each side accusing the other of not doing true science.

The remainder of the book examines the downfall of the eugenics movement in the United States and the acceptance of culture…

Tags: , , , ,

Jennifer Lisa Vest to explore ‘post-racial present’ at Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium

Posted in Articles, Arts, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-04-16 23:09Z by Steven

Jennifer Lisa Vest to explore ‘post-racial present’ at Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium

Report: Faculty/Staff Newsletter
Illinois State University

Rachel Hatch, Editor

Performing artist and scholar Jennifer Lisa Vest will be the keynote speaker for the 20th annual Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) Symposium.

Vest will present Black Lives Matter: [Trans]Gender Violence, Disability, and Women in a ‘Post-racial,’ ‘Post-Sexist’ Present at 1 p.m. Friday, April 17, in the Bone Student Center. The talk is free and open to the public.

In celebration of the event, there will be a poetry reading at 7 p.m. Thursday April 16, at the University Galleries, 11 Uptown Circle, Normal.

Vest is a self-described “mixed-race queer feminist philosopher, poet, and artivist whose philopoetic works combine philosophy, poetry and feminist theories to provide intersectional analyses of social justice issues by explicating raced, gendered, and sexualized components of privilege, ablelism, and oppression.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Gordon Fox Pleads Guilty in Rhode Island Corruption Case

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-03-07 02:38Z by Steven

Gordon Fox Pleads Guilty in Rhode Island Corruption Case

The New York Times

Richard Pérez-Peña

The climb took decades, but the fall was swift. Less than a year removed from his reign as speaker of the Rhode Island House, Gordon D. Fox pleaded guilty on Tuesday to taking bribes, wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

Mr. Fox, 53, took $52,500 in bribes to help a bar and restaurant get a liquor license and illegally diverted $108,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. He made the admissions in Federal District Court in Providence as part of a plea agreement that calls for a three-year prison sentence — though a judge will ultimately decide the penalty — and will almost certainly cost him his law license.

Outside the courthouse, when asked by reporters whether he felt remorse, Mr. Fox said, “Absolutely, absolutely, without question.”…

…Mr. Fox, a Democrat, was the first openly gay person and the first mixed-race person to lead either of the state’s legislative chambers, and he led the drive to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013.

He grew up as one of six children in a blue-collar family, with a black mother and a white father, and he liked to recall how he had worked in an ice cream shop to help pay his way through law school. He became a lawyer and part owner of a nightclub, and in 1992 he was elected to the House. He became the majority leader in 2002 and the speaker in 2010…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Census Bureau’s Plan to Cut Marriage and Divorce Questions Has Academics Up in Arms

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Economics, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-01 20:37Z by Steven

Census Bureau’s Plan to Cut Marriage and Divorce Questions Has Academics Up in Arms

The New York Times

Justin Wolfers, Senior Fellow
Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, D.C.

also: Professor of Economics and Public Policy
University of Michigan

If the Census Bureau proceeds with a recently released plan, then in a few years’ time, we will know very little about how the contours of family life are changing.

We will not even know whether marriage and divorce rates are rising or falling. For all the talk of evidence-based policy, the result will be that important debates on issues including family law, welfare reform, same-sex marriage and the rise of nontraditional families will proceed in a statistical void.

Much of what I, an economist who has studied family issues, and my colleagues in this field have learned about recent trends in marriage and divorce has come from questions in the American Community Survey. It asks people whether they have given birth, married, divorced or been widowed in the past year. Their answers allow demographers to track marriage and divorce rates by age, gender, race and education.

These data have revealed many important social trends, including the rise of sharply different marriage and divorce patterns between rich and poor, and the increase in divorce among older Americans, even as it has fallen for younger people. And they have provided the only statistical window into the adoption of same-sex marriage.

The Census Bureau is proposing to eliminate these questions. It would follow a series of steps taken over recent decades that have collectively devastated our ability to track family change. This isn’t being done as a strategic policy choice but rather is the result of a series of isolated decisions made across several decades by statisticians scattered across various government agencies who have failed to understand the cumulative effect of their actions…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Justice Alito’s Dissent in Loving v. Virginia

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-11 00:40Z by Steven

Justice Alito’s Dissent in Loving v. Virginia

Boston College Law Review
Volume 55, Issue 5 (November 2014)
pages 1563-1611

Christopher R. Leslie, Chancellor’s Professor of Law
University of California, Irvine

In 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down miscegenation statutes, which criminalized interracial marriage, as unconstitutional. In 2013, the Court in United States v. Windsor invalidated Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which precluded federal agencies from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples even if the marriages were legally valid in the couples’ home state. While Loving was a unanimous decision, the Court in Windsor was closely divided. Almost half a century after Chief Justice Warren issued his unanimous Loving opinion, the Loving dissent has been written. Justice Alito authored it in Windsor. Justice Alito fashioned his dissent as upholding DOMA. But the rationales he employed were much more suited to the facts of Loving than the facts of Windsor. In this Article, Professor Leslie explains how each of Justice Alito’s reasons for upholding DOMA applies equally or more strongly to miscegenation laws at the time of the Loving opinion than to DOMA in 2013. There is simply no internally consistent way to defend DOMA with Justice Alito’s arguments without also upholding the constitutionality of miscegenation laws. Thus, Justice Alito not only authored a dissent for the Windsor case; he effectively wrote a dissent in Loving nearly 50 years after the case was decided. His reasoning would require the upholding of Virginia’s miscegenation statute. To the extent that the legal community now recognizes that the former anti-miscegenation regimes represent a shameful chapter of American history, the fact that the same arguments used to defend miscegenation laws are being invoked to justify bans on same-sex marriage suggests that such bans are inherently suspect and probably unconstitutional.

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

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


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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

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

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.

Tags: , , ,

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

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

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.

Tags: , , ,