Tony Williams’ “Wilderness” and Mixed-Race Identity through Jazz

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-27 02:31Z by Steven

Tony Williams’ “Wilderness” and Mixed-Race Identity through Jazz

Soundscapes and Such: Critical Thoughts on Sonic Subjects
2015-05-27

Shawn M. Higgins
University of Connecticut


Tony Williams (source: Wikipedia)

Why do song writers choose the song titles they do? Perhaps Herbie Hancock’s 1980 track “4 A.M.” was recorded at that exact time – or maybe finished then? The song isn’t sleepy and lethargic as I might connotatively connect with the before-dawn hour, but jazz musicians are infamously night owls, and the song’s rhythm suggests this might be the funkiest, most active hour of the cycle. The title of John Coltrane’s 1967 song “Stellar Regions”, through the frenzied, echoing cymbal work of Rashied Ali and Coltrane’s trilling, screaming saxophone, could serve in a Romantic sense to invoke feelings of a paean to the heavens. The listeners, upon closing their eyes, are sonically shot into space and flung around the cosmos through the combination of music and such a song title. And of course, one of Duke Ellington’s most famous songs, which is in turn an absolute standard of jazz today, was given a title by the composer Billy Strayhorn after Duke gave him directions to his house and told him to “Take the ‘A’ Train.” None of these songs at the time of their composure had any lyrics to support these titles either in a refrain or in any thematic way. Rather, the listener is encouraged to interpret the sounds alongside the title or through the title. What happens in this exchange between artist, product, and consumer is my primary interest, and I would like to point to one artist in particular who used his song titles as a conscious way of addressing his newly discovered mixed-race identity.

Tony Williams, the legendary jazz drummer who is credited with inventing the “blast beat” and who called legends like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and John McLaughlin his musical partners, candidly explained in a 1995 BET interview a recent revelation in his life. Williams had discovered at the age of roughly forty-nine that he was of a racially mixed ancestry – he was phenotypically African American but also of Chinese and Portuguese background…

Read the entire article here.

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The Invention of Hispanics

Posted in Audio, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-05-27 01:59Z by Steven

The Invention of Hispanics

Latino USA
2015-05-22

Hosts:

Marlon Bishop, Producer

Camilo Vargas, Producer

Guest:

G. Cristina Mora, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of California, Berkeley

Before 1970, the US Census Bureau classified Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants as whites. Each community of Latin American origin would go by their nationality and by the region where they lived in the United States. But all that changed in the seventies, as activists began lobbying the US Census Bureau to create a broad, national category that included all these communities. The result was the creation of the term “Hispanic”, first introduced in the US Census in 1970.

Then it was up to Spanish-language media to get the word out. The network that would later become Univision released this series of ads calling on “Hispanics” to fill out the 1980 Census. The ads feature “Hispanic” sports stars and… Big Bird:…

By the 1990s, Univision was creating the images and sounds associated to Hispanics in the US. The 1990 Census ads feature the likes of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz telling Hispanics to fill out el censo:…

Read the preview here. Listen to the story here.

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On The Cherokee Rose, Historical Fiction, and Silences in the Archives

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2015-05-27 01:44Z by Steven

On The Cherokee Rose, Historical Fiction, and Silences in the Archives

Process: a blog for american history
2015-05-26

Martha S. Jones, Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Associate Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies
University of Michigan


Martha S. Jones

Martha S. Jones is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan on the faculties in Afroamerican and African studies, history, and law. She is also a codirector of the university’s Program in Race, Law, and History. The author of the forthcoming Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America and a coeditor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), she is at work on a new book entitled “Riding the Atlantic World Circuit: Slavery and Law after the Haitian Revolution.” She is also an OAH Distinguished Lecturer.

The Cherokee Rose, the debut novel by historian Tiya Miles, caught me in the middle of a longstanding argument. I had pre-ordered the book from its publisher John F. Blair, and so it arrived unexpectedly, as if unsummoned. It was March, a busy moment in the term. Still, I stole time that Saturday, reading it nearly cover-to-cover in one sitting. I left the last chapter until the next day, just to savor the experience. Miles is my colleague at the University of Michigan, and that hints at why I’d let my email pile up just to read a work of fiction. Generally, I’m the sort that lets a stack of books accumulate for later summer reading. But there was more. As I said, I was trying to settle an argument and thought The Cherokee Rose might help.

Many of us know Miles for her award-winning works of history: Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family (University of California Press, 2006), The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (University of North Carolina Press, 2012), and Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era (also coming from UNC Press this fall). Miles’ insight into the intimate dynamics of slavery at the crossroads of Native American and African American experience has won her professional accolades and an eager readership. In this sense, while The Cherokee Rose is fiction, it is no sharp departure. Miles builds upon what she had already taught us, including her exploration of Georgia’s Chief Vann House, to provide a new vantage point from which to explain the past…

Read the entire review here.

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Novelist Mat Johnson Explores The ‘Optical Illusion’ Of Being Biracial

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-27 01:25Z by Steven

Novelist Mat Johnson Explores The ‘Optical Illusion’ Of Being Biracial

Weekend Edition Sunday
National Public Radio
2015-05-24

Growing up in Philadelphia, Mat Johnson lived mostly with his mother in a black neighborhood. The son of an African-American mother and an Irish-American father, his skin was so light that he might have passed for white. But being biracial meant only one thing back in the ’70s: “Um, it meant: black,” Johnson says with a laugh. “There wasn’t a lot of ambiguity there. I didn’t hear the world biracial or didn’t think of myself as biracial. And when I did hear that, I reacted to it defensively. I thought it was just black people of mixed heritage who were just trying to run away from blackness.”

Johnson was born three years after Loving Day — the historic 1967 Supreme Court decision which made interracial marriage legal. His new novel, Loving Day, is a funny, sometimes absurd look at what it means to be mixed race in this country.

These days, Johnson has a more nuanced way to describe his racial identity. He says he is a mixed person of African-American descent. But he also uses another, more loaded word, to describe himself: mulatto

Read the entire article here. Download the interview here. Read the transcript here.

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Crossed lines

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-05-26 15:35Z by Steven

Crossed lines

The University of Chicago Magazine
May-June 2015

Lydiayle Gibson


Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09. (Photography by Jennifer Pottheiser)

A secret in her own family led Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09, to uncover the hidden history of racial passing.

“You know, we have that in our own family too.” That was the bombshell, the offhand remark that plunged historian Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09, into a 12-year odyssey to understand racial passing in America—the triumphs and possibilities, secrets and sorrows, of African Americans who crossed the color line and lived as white. As a first-year graduate student at the University of Chicago, Hobbs happened to mention to her aunt the subject of passing, a casual curiosity sparked by the Harlem Renaissance writers she was reading in school. Her aunt responded by telling her the story of a distant cousin from the South Side of Chicago who disappeared into the white world and never returned.

That story opens Hobbs’s book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life (Harvard University Press, 2014), a lyrical, searching, and studious account of the phenomenon from the mid-19th century to the 1950s. Hobbs’s cousin was 18 when she was sent by her mother to live in Los Angeles and pass as a white woman in the late 1930s. “And our cousin—and this was the part of the story that my aunt really underscored—was that our cousin absolutely did not want to do this,” Hobbs says. “She wanted to stay in Chicago; she didn’t want to give up all her friends and the only life she’d ever known.” But her mother was resolved. And so the matter was decided.

Ten or 15 years later, her cousin got what Hobbs calls an “inconvenient phone call.” Her father was dying. And her mother wanted her to come home right away. “And she says to her mother, ‘I can’t come home. I’m a white woman now.’” She was married to a white man; she had white children. “So she never goes back,” Hobbs says.

Many threads weave through A Chosen Exile, released last fall to glowing reviews: the meaning of identity, the elusive concept of race, ever-shifting color lines and cultural borderlands. But by far the book’s most potent thread is about loss. “The core issue of passing is not becoming what you pass for,” Hobbs writes in the prologue, “but losing what you pass away from.” Historians have tended to focus on the privileges and opportunities available to those with white identities. Hobbs reckons with the trauma, alienation, and scars—not only for those who passed, but also for those they left behind. In letters, unpublished family histories, personal papers, sociological journals, court cases, anthropological archives, literature, and film, she finds “a coherent and enduring narrative of loss.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature by Diana Adesola Mafe (review)

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2015-05-26 01:30Z by Steven

Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature by Diana Adesola Mafe (review)

Research in African Literatures
Volume 46, Number 2, Summer 2015
pages 166-168

Tru Leverette, Associate Professor of English
University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida

Mafe, Diana Adesola, Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature: Coloring Outside the (Black and White) Lines (New York, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

In her recently published study, Diana Adesola Mafe explores the literary trope of the tragic mulatto through a comparative analysis of American and South African novels. Her work is both useful and timely, filling a gap in the literary study of colouredness and the transnational study of mixed race literature. Through this transnational lens, Mafe argues that the advent of the “age of Obama” and the renewed celebration of race mixture in the United States coincide with South Africa’s post-apartheid efforts to imagine itself as a Rainbow Nation. This celebration in both nations, however, overlooks important historical realities that are often explored through the literary figure of the tragic mulatto. Acknowledging that mulattos have often been “called upon to embody historic national moments” (1), Mafe asserts “a reading of South African fictions alongside American counterparts reveals the ongoing relevance of the tragic mulatto, which functions not only as a dated cliché and cautionary tale but also as a radical embodiment of possibility and a vehicle for social critique” (2). Indeed, Mafe illustrates through her analysis that the tragic mulatto has long functioned as a trope through which American and South African writers have critiqued race, identity, national belonging, and state-sanctioned racism.

Mafe begins her study with the introduction “Tainted Blood: The ‘Tragic Mulatto’ Tradition,” wherein she introduces the celebration of mixture within the contemporary sociopolitical contexts of the United States and South Africa. She also begins to address the tragic mulatto as a historical type. Acknowledging that, in the United States, the tragic mulatto trope developed as an abolitionist tool, Mafe briefly explores its origins in antebellum and postbellum literature. Additionally, she presents a justification for her comparative study, arguing “the tragic mulatto is a provocative keystone for analyzing these American and South African texts, which might otherwise have little else in common. When read alongside each other, these fictions expose mutual histories of stigmatization and marginalization for the mulatto figure” (14).

In chapter one, “God’s Stepchildren: The ‘Tragedy of Being a Halfbreed’ in South African Literature,” Mafe offers a history of miscegenation in South Africa and the United States, allowing her to trace the origins of the coloured and mulatto populations, respectively, in each nation. Having delineated this history, Mafe then turns her attention to the use of colouredness in South African fiction, which, she asserts, was not offered in-depth characterization until the twentieth century: “This development is inextricable from the emergence of colouredness as a ‘new’ social identity, mounting national interest in race categorization, and a literary shift from exploring Anglo-Boer relations to exploring black-white relations” (34). Through analyses of Sarah Gertrude Millin’s eugenicist novel God’s Step-Children and Peter Abrahams’s The Path of Thunder, Mafe establishes the literary origins and original uses of the tragic mulatto trope in South African literature. Throughout, she draws parallels with and highlights divergences from the use of the trope in American literature, in particular Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Passing and James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

In her next chapter, “‘An Unlovely Woman’: Bessie Head’s Mulatta (Re) Vision,” Mafe turns her analysis to the life and work of South African writer Bessie Head, specifically her novel A Question of Power, arguing “this text is a startling conceptualization of the mulatta that parallels but also challenges the efforts of earlier American writers” (59). Mafe explores the stereotype of the beautiful tragic mulatta and Head’s inversion of it through the presentation of an ugly protagonist, simultaneously exploring the novel’s ironic use of madness and its presentation of female sexuality. Since depictions of the tragic mulatta typically position her between the demands of white female respectability and the stereotype of black female passion, Head’s protagonist “destabilizes the exotic and erotic iconography of the mulatta, which is remarkably consistent in the American tradition” (63).

Turning from the tragic mulatta, in chapter three Mafe analyzes presentations of the mulatto man’s sexuality, again torn between “‘white’ propriety and ‘black’ passion” (86) and his filial relationship to his white father. In “‘A Little Yellow Bastard Boy’: Arthur Nortje’s Mulatto Manhood,” Mafe reads the father-son dynamic in…

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Blackness and Blood: Interpreting African American Identity

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2015-05-25 01:52Z by Steven

Blackness and Blood: Interpreting African American Identity

Philosophy & Public Affairs
Volume 32, Issue 2 (April 2004)
pages 171-192
DOI: 10.1111/j.1088-4963.2004.00010.x

Lionel K. McPherson, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy
Harvard University

In his Tanner Lectures, “The State and the Shaping of Identity,” Kwame Anthony Appiah defends a version of liberalism that would give the state a substantial role in deliberately sustaining, reshaping, and even creating the social identities of its citizens—our identities as African American, women, Hispanic, gay, Jewish, and the like. He calls this role “soul-making,” which is “the political project of intervening in the process of interpretation through which each citizen develops an identity with the aim of increasing her chances of living an ethically successful life.”

Appiah believes that an ethically successful life is integral to an objectively good life. “A life has gone well,” he tells us, “if a person has mostly done for others what she owed them (and thus is morally successful) and has succeeded in creating things of significance and in fulfilling her ambitions (and is thus ethically successful).” He supports a liberal democratic, soul-making state that not only would seek to protect persons from harming themselves but also would seek to promote for citizens the kinds of lives that are good or valuable, perhaps even if these citizens failed to recognize how such governmental interventions would contribute to their objective well-being.

According to Appiah, our social identities can themselves be a major obstacle to our pursuit of an ethically successful life. This is likely to happen when a social identity is incoherent, when it has “a set of norms associated with it, such that, in the actual world, attempting to conform to some subset of those norms undermines one’s capacity to conform to others.” He believes that many existing social identities are incoherent in just this way. Further, he maintains that people who suffer from an incoherent social identity should want to be suitably informed about its incoherence, because social identities are among the tools with which we shape and give meaning to our lives. “The incoherence of a social identity,” he argues, “can lead to incoherence in individual identities: to someone’s having an identity that generates projects and ambitions that undermine one another.” In previous writings Appiah advocated tolerance, not state soul-making, for confused or incoherent social identities. But here he argues that, when ordinary dissemination of the relevant facts fails to reform faulty social identities, it may be legitimate for the state to intervene in order to increase the chances that citizens will attain their autonomous ethical aims…

…The case that Appiah makes to demonstrate the incoherence of African American racial identity proceeds as follows. He argues that the common-sense criteria for ascribing African American racial identity are inconsistent with the facts. This argument rests on the claim that many Americans, including most African Americans, accept the so-called one-drop rule for black racial designation: a person is black if and only if she has at least one traceable black ancestor. The rule has the peculiar consequence that some African Americans may be physically indistinguishable from whites….

…In trying to make sense of African American attitudes about their racial identity and its relation to their ethical aims, it may be more revealing to work from observed social practices to conceptual commitments, rather than the other way around. As a thought experiment, imagine a group of persons who regard themselves as belonging to the same race and who live within a larger multiracial society. Further suppose that within this racial community, call it the “black nation,” racial essentialism is both widely accepted and treated as practically important. We would expect the lives of such a people to be, in some significant respects, structured around this shared belief and joint practical concern. Within the black nation there would be sharply defined, public criteria for racial identity. Community leaders would seek to regulate carefully the criteria for proper racial ascription. Using these criteria, members of the community would closely track the racial lineage—for instance, at birth and marriage—of fellow members. There would probably be norms against both interracial marriage and interracial sex, given the latter’s propensity to produce hybrid offspring. Members of the black nation would not only contest any assertion or suggestion that blacks are naturally inferior but also would insist on the recognition of the natural, i.e., biologically based, virtues of blackness. There would be commercial enterprises whose business consisted in researching the racial ancestry of prospective political leaders, spouses, and in-laws. Terms such as “mulatto,” “quadroon,” and “octoroon” (or their functional equivalents) would be the standard nomenclature for referring to interracial progeny, rather than the more vague terms “mixed race” and “multiracial” that now have some currency; and these designations would not be understood as falling under the racial category “black,” as this would be a misnomer. Dissemination of the facts about the prevalence of passing and interracial reproduction would be cause for alarm, not merely surprise, within the black nation…

Read the entire article here.

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#119: Moving “Multiracial” from the Margins: Theoretical and Practical Innovations for Serving Mixed Race Students

Posted in Campus Life, Live Events, Media Archive, Teaching Resources, United States on 2015-05-25 01:29Z by Steven

#119: Moving “Multiracial” from the Margins: Theoretical and Practical Innovations for Serving Mixed Race Students

The 28th Annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE)
Washington Hilton
1919 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
2015-05-26 through 2015-05-30

Part I: Tuesday, 08:30-11:30 EDT (Local Time)
Part II: Tuesday, 13:00-17:30 EDT (Local Time)

Despite evidence from the 2010 U.S. Census that multiracial youth are the fastest growing demographic in the nation, multiraciality continues to be on the margins of the discourse on race and racism in higher education theory and practice. This two-part institute invites educators from all backgrounds and expertise levels to engage in deep learning about the complexities of serving multiracially-identified students. After briefly reviewing contemporary models of multiracial identity and development, presenters will focus on better understanding the contexts shaping and complicating such models. Further, the institute will focus on theoretical innovations that help to move of understanding of multiraciality forward, including systems of oppression and models for assessing the campus climate for multiracial students. The latter part of the institute will focus on applying theories to practice and working through hands-on issues related to serving multiracial students. Throughout the institute, contradictions in the popular discourse about multiraciality and recent controversies will be presented for participants to engage in critical thinking about their own potential biases (i.e., self-work) as well as how to educate others toward creating more inclusive contexts for multiracial students. Additionally, a range of activities, including presentations, journaling, and small- and large-group discussions, will be used to allow participants to actively engage throughout the institute.

Pre-Conference Institute

This institute will:

  • Contextualize current approaches to supporting the healthy identity development of multiracial people;
  • Explicitly connect the discourse on multiracial identity to monoracism, a system of oppression related to traditional racism that marginalizes those who do not adhere to society’s promotion of discrete monoracial categories (Johnston and Nadal, 2010);
  • Include multiraciality in larger efforts aimed at obtaining racial equality in higher education; and
  • Provide ample opportunities for in-depth discussions of the complexities of serving multiracial students to assist participants in evaluating and growing their own institution’s service to multiracial students.

Presenters

Marc Johnston, Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Studies
Ohio State University

Eric Hamako, Assistant Professor
Department Equity & Social Justice Program
Shoreline Community College, Shoreline, Washington

Natasha Chapman, Assistant Professor
West Virginia University

Victoria Malaney, Special Assistant to the Dean of Students
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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What’s Radical About “Mixed Race”?

Posted in Canada, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2015-05-24 18:50Z by Steven

What’s Radical About “Mixed Race”?

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
2015-04-20

On April 20, 2015, the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU hosted “What’s Radical About ‘Mixed Race’?“. Eschewing an apolitical “celebration” of mixed race, this panel examined the movement’s implications for multiracial coalition and the future of race in the US and Canada, asking: does the multiracial movement challenge—or actually reinforce—the logics of structural racism?

Minelle Mahtani critically located how an apolitical and ahistorical Canadian “model multiracial” upholds the multicultural claims of the Canadian settler state. Jared Sexton called to task multiracial activists who leverage a mixed race identity in opposition to those who are “all black, all the time.”

A roundtable conversation moderated by Ann Morning (NYU Department of Sociology) followed.

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The Psychological Advantages of Strongly Identifying As Biracial

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-24 18:38Z by Steven

The Psychological Advantages of Strongly Identifying As Biracial

New York Magazine
2015-05-22

Lisa Miller

As I reported in the most recent issue of New York, a new program at an elite private school in New York aims to combat racism by dividing young children, some as young as 8 years old, into “affinity groups” according to their race. The program has been controversial among parents, many of whom believe it is their job, and not the school’s, to impart racial identity to their kids. This feeling is particularly strong among parents who have multi-racial kids. Their identities, many of them say, don’t fit into any established racial category but instead live on the frontier of race.

These sorts of questions about racial identity are only going to become more prominent given ongoing demographic changes in the United States. Multi-racial births are soaring — to 7 percent of all births in the U.S., according to the last Census — a result of more inter-racial coupling and also a broader cultural acceptance of the tag “multi-racial.” (Only as recently as 2000 did the Census even offer a “multi-racial” category — for hundreds of years, stigma has compelled multi-racial people to choose one or the other of their parents’ racial identities, both on government forms and in society.).

But even as multi-racial people take prominent and visible places in all the nation’s hierarchies — golf, pop music, cinema, finance, and, of course, in the executive branch of the United States government — very little psychological research has been done on what it means to have a multi-racial identity, and how that identity is different from having a “mono-racial” one. Now a new literature review, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science by Sarah Gaither, a post-doc at the University of Chicago (who is herself biracial), assesses the psychological landscape of multi-racial identity and points to new directions for research.

Here are some of the key findings:…

Read the entire article here.

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