The complicity cost of racial inclusion

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-08-30 20:50Z by Steven

The complicity cost of racial inclusion

Al Jazeera America
2014-08-24

Julia Carrie Wong
Oakland, California

When Brook Soso, a new Asian-American character in the second season of “Orange Is the New Black,” arrives at the federal prison in Litchfield, New York, a fellow inmate named Lorna Morello provides her with a toothbrush and bar of soap. Morello, who is white, is an enforcer of the strict racial divisions (black, Latina, white and other) that define the show’s social landscape — “it’s tribal, not racist,” she explained in the first season — but here she makes an exception. “I don’t normally bend the rules like this,” she says, “but you don’t look full … Asian.”

Morello turns out to be right — Soso is half Scottish — but Soso’s arms-length adoption by white prisoners such as Morello is in many ways still evocative of the shifting position Asian-Americans hold in the United States today. Being Asian and being white are becoming less and less mutually exclusive and the boundary between them (particularly in arenas such as work and education) increasingly porous. But the induction of Asian-Americans into whiteness doesn’t alter the meaning of whiteness; rather, it’s a reminder that whiteness has never been defined by a person’s country of origin or genetic makeup. It’s simply a tool, one that can continue to operate even with the inclusion of certain minority groups…

…It may be disconcerting for some people to recognize that the boundaries of whiteness can shift. The ubiquitous boxes we check on applications and census materials might lead us to believe that race is determinate. But race is a social construct, not a scientific fact: American whiteness was an ideological creation to rationalize the enslavement of Africans and the extermination of native peoples. As David Roediger argued in “The Wages of Whiteness,” racial antagonisms helped solidify 19th century American class structure. In subsequent generations, whiteness was expanded to meet the needs of our changing population and the U.S.’s imperial interests abroad. Throughout our country’s history, special privileges (such as voting and land ownership) have been reserved for those who were considered white…

Read the entire article here.

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On My Mixed Experience with “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-30 00:05Z by Steven

On My Mixed Experience with “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”

Gino Michael Pellegrini: Education, Race, Multiraciality, Class & Solidarity
2014-08-28

Gino M. Pellegrini, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English
Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California

I have this peculiar, twofold, scrambled-egg relationship with “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” the oft-quoted, seminal article written by Peggy McIntosh in the late 1980s.

That is to say, I have been a student in college classes where McIntosh’s article was cited and discussed, classes in which I was perceived and treated as a white male oppressor. Conversely, I have assigned or cited McIntosh’s article in classes where most of my students perceived and treated me as nonwhite, classes in which I identified myself as mixed race and a person of color—Mexican, Italian, White, Native American…

Read the entire article here.

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How Racism Creeps Into Medicine

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

How Racism Creeps Into Medicine

The Atlantic
2014-08-29

Hamza Shaban
Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire interview here.

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I’m black, my brother’s white … and he’s a cop who shot a black man on duty

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-08-29 19:58Z by Steven

I’m black, my brother’s white … and he’s a cop who shot a black man on duty

The Guardian
204-08-25

Zach Stafford, Writer
Chicago, Illinois

I never thought that my brother would be one of those police officers. He was supposed to be different because of me

My white brother loved black people more than I did when we were growing up. As a black interracial child of the south – one who lived in a homogenous white town – I struggled with my own blackness. I struggled even more with loving that blackness. But my brother, Mitch, didn’t. He loved me unapologetically. He loved me loudly.

He also loved screwing with other people’s expectations. Whenever we met new people or I joined a social situation he was in, Mitch would make sure I was standing right next to him for introductions and say, “This is Zach, my brother” – and then go silent with a smirk.

These new acquaintances would then scan back and forth with such intensity – black, white, white, black – that our faces became a kind of tennis court, with strangers waiting for someone to fault. Eventually someone would awkwardly laugh and say something like: “Oh, adopted brother,” immediately looking relieved to have figured it out. My brother would deny that and push the line further, “No, like, my brother. We have the same mom. We are blood.”

That would lead to someone questioning me intensely, and, each time, my white brother would stand next to me, proud: prouder than me of my own skin. And over the years, as he continued playing this game, I became prouder … with his help.

And then, years later and far away in Chicago, I got the phone call: my brother, now a cop, had shot an unarmed black man back in Tennessee.

Hearing about black men dying is never exactly a surprise. Every day, you see the news stories: On the news, black men die while getting Skittles. On the news, black men die in choke-holds. On the news, black men die for playing their music too loud. It seems black men die on the news more than they do almost anything else on the news, even with a black president in office. Every 28 hours, a black man is killed by a police officer in America…

Read the entire article here.

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Direct-to-Consumer Racial Admixture Tests and Beliefs About Essential Racial Differences

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-08-29 18:46Z by Steven

Direct-to-Consumer Racial Admixture Tests and Beliefs About Essential Racial Differences

Social Psychology Quarterly
Volume 77, Number 3 (September 2014)
pages 296-318
DOI: 10.1177/0190272514529439

Jo C. Phelan, Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences
Columbia University, New York, New York

Bruce G. Link, Professor of Epidemiology and Sociomedical Sciences
Columbia University, New York, New York; New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York

Sarah Zelner
Department of Sociology
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Lawrence H. Yang, Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Columbia University, New York, New York

Although at first relatively disinterested in race, modern genomic research has increasingly turned attention to racial variations. We examine a prominent example of this focus—direct-to-consumer racial admixture tests—and ask how information about the methods and results of these tests in news media may affect beliefs in racial differences. The reification hypothesis proposes that by emphasizing a genetic basis for race, thereby reifying race as a biological reality, the tests increase beliefs that whites and blacks are essentially different. The challenge hypothesis suggests that by describing differences between racial groups as continua rather than sharp demarcations, the results produced by admixture tests break down racial categories and reduce beliefs in racial differences. A nationally representative survey experiment (N = 526) provided clear support for the reification hypothesis. The results suggest that an unintended consequence of the genomic revolution may be to reinvigorate age-old beliefs in essential racial differences.

Read or purchase the article here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire review here.

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Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth and Culture [Hauskeller Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2014-08-28 20:26Z by Steven

Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth and Culture [Hauskeller Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1946-1948
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.870348

Christine Hauskeller, Senior Lecturer of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology
University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Race and the genetic revolution: science, myth and culture, edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan, New York, Columbia University Press, 2011, xiv + 296 pp., £22.66 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-231-15697-4

The similarities and differences among humankind have been a central theme in knowledge production, and modern biological and medical science has contributed much to the formation of race. Race and the Genetic Revolution takes its starting point from two current empirical facts: that ‘race is a scientific myth and a social reality. (2)’ DNA knowledge and genetic tests are promoted as indicating racial differences as biological differences, even though race has been unmasked in the twentieth century as a powerful social reality without a biological basis. Population genetics has shown that races are ideological constructs, yet today we find genetics widely used to re-inscribe nineteenth-century racial categories and prejudices into current social practices. To discuss these developments, Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan have brought together contributions by distinguished scholars with multidisciplinary expertise. The resulting anthology unfolds, with sharpness and clarity, the genealogy of the myth of race and how genetics is being misappropriated to revive it.

Following Krimsky’s programmatic foreword, the book is divided into six parts relating to the social realms in which genetic race is fabricated. The chapters deconstruct the amalgamation of ideology and pseudo-science and discuss in detail the flawed methods used to establish biological races. This folk genetics of race is problematic, however, not least because it is increasingly applied in institutions with social power and authority, such as health services and the police. In Part I, Michael Yuddell and Robert Pollack present a history of the ideology of race and an evolutionary perspective on why strict biological human races cannot exist. Part II analyses the politics and uses of the large forensic DNA databases in the USA and the UK. In both countries, ethnic minorities are over-represented in these databases and thus become prime suspects in police proceedings. Profiles of suspects are kept in the databases even when the individuals are never charged with any crime. Michael Risher argues that these DNA banking practices could be seen as unconstitutional and Helen Wallace points out the human rights aspects. Both observe no decided political will to counteract this re-racialization. In Part III on the logic of genetic ancestry testing, Troy Duster deconstructs the underlying idea of ‘pure’ races, the construction of reference data sets and the statistics used to produce percentages of racial origin. Testing products promising to identify the racial ancestry of an individual, he concludes, are flawed and buyers should beware that they buy nothing of any actual meaning or use. Duana Fullwiley looks at the uptake of ancestral informative DNA markers in the creation of search profiles in policing. Despite falling short of the scientific credibility that would be required for courtroom evidence, DNA-derived racial profiles inform investigative searches…

Read the entire review here.

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The biopolitics of mixing: Thai multiracialities and haunted ascendancies [England Review]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-08-28 19:00Z by Steven

The biopolitics of mixing: Thai multiracialities and haunted ascendancies [England Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1923-1926
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.925129

Sara England, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California

The biopolitics of mixing: Thai multiracialities and haunted ascendancies, by Jinthana Haritaworn, Surrey, UK, Ashgate, 2012, vii + 187 pp., £49.50 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-7546-7680-5

The Biopolitics of Mixing falls within a large and growing literature that questions the claim that many nations in the world are now post-racial. This claim is often backed up by the observation that there are a growing number of multiracial subjects who are accepted and celebrated as beautiful, desirable and maybe even genetically superior members of society. It is further bolstered by the claim that race itself has been discredited as a category that has any biological meaning, that through mixing racial categories are blending and creatively transgressed and that multiracial subjects are the products of the ultimate sign of racial tolerance: love, marriage and family-making. Through interviews with peoples of Thai multiracial heritage and analysis of public narratives of multiraciality in England and Germany, Haritaworn argues that this new discourse that celebrates multiracial subjects may appear to be more progressive, having done away with prior narratives of the degenerate hybrid and the marginal man; however, there are also ways that this celebratory discourse ignores what she calls the ghosts of eugenics, the Thai prostitute and other less positive images of multiraciality. She also argues that the celebration of multiraciality marginalizes other subjects who do not fit the narrative of the happy multiracial subject and the love story that produced them, and that it celebrates certain kinds of mixing and multiculturalism over others. In the end, despite its seemingly progressive nature, new discourses of multiraciality still draw on conceptions of biopolitics and biological citizenship that continue to silence certain subjects and reinforce heteronormative, liberal, white subjectivity.

In chapter 2, Haritiworn enters into the debate about the ‘what are you’ question. She notes that, like researchers before her, she designed her interviews with this question in mind. However, she came to the conclusion that the question itself is problematic, both as encountered in the daily lives of multiracial people and as posed by researchers because in both cases it assumes in advance that the multiracial body is ‘naturally’ or ‘obviously’ ambiguous and in need of ‘dissection’ and explanation. Through her interviews she shows that often the ambiguity is created in the encounter itself as the subject is misrecognized as some other ‘monoracial’ category and only through the interrogation is the multiraciality revealed and its ‘signs’ searched for in the body of the interrogated. She further argues that though her interviewees did not see these questions as particularly offensive, they did come to assume an almost ritualistic character in which the interviewee knew in advance how the interrogation was going to proceed and what assumptions underlie it. Some therefore compliantly responded to what the interrogator wanted to hear, others delighted in shocking them, while others played along with their racial assumptions and misrecognitions. While none of these strategies serve to dismantle the racial assumptions behind the interrogation, they could sometimes turn the power of ‘surveillance’ back onto the interrogator whose racial assumptions were revealed.

Unlike their varied strategies of resistance to the ‘what are you’ question, Haritaworn’s interviewees were more consistent in their celebration of the ‘beautiful Eurasian’, a discourse that she argues appears to turn the tables on the bioracial logic of eugenics in which mixes were assumed to produce degenerations of the ‘pure’ racial stocks, but that upon inspection actually shares some of its logic. For example, interviewees talked of themselves as superior breeds that are more beautiful and healthy than monoracial individuals, a belief grounded in the long-standing racial logic that equates phenotype with other ‘non-racial’ characteristics. But even within this celebration of mixing as producing bodies with ‘the best of both worlds’, some mixes were seen as more beautiful or seamless, than others, particularly Asian plus white which produces a browned white body or a diluted Thai body, in contrast to those who are a ‘dually minoritized mix’ whose bodies were seen as a more problematic clashing of disparate racialized body parts (Arab nose with Thai eyes, etc.). Haritaworn further shows that this ‘ghost of eugenics’ in the celebration of the biological superiority of the multiracial body is not simply a discourse among multiracial peoples themselves but is also present in the public sphere and given the legitimization of scientific ‘truth’ through research that seeks to locate race at the genetic level and has made the argument that multiracial peoples exhibit more ‘heterozygosity’ and are therefore physically and mentally superior to those who do not mix. She demonstrates this in chapter 4 through an analysis of the British documentary Is it Better to be Mixed Race? which aired on Channel 4 in 2009. The documentary follows Araathi Prasad, a British South Asian scientist, as she interviews largely white male scientists and happy heterosexual multiracial families with their beautiful children. Haritaworn argues that ‘While superficially reversing the old racial purity doctrine on national reproduction, the new bioracial knowledge repeats its heteronormativity and preserves and diversifies its ableism’ (89). In contrast to the racial logic of eugenics, ‘Interraciality is foregrounded as the transgressive, cutting-edge practice of the future’; however, like eugenics ‘heterosexuality remains its unspoken, taken for granted backdrop’ (90). Thus, rather than dismantling the idea of race as a biological fiction, this new line of research reifies it into the body at the genetic level and reproduces ideas of superior and inferior ‘biological citizens.’…

Read the entire review here.

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Race statistics: how to get from where we are to where we should be: a rejoinder

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-28 00:59Z by Steven

Race statistics: how to get from where we are to where we should be: a rejoinder

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1852-1856
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.932413

Kenneth Prewitt, Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs
Columbia University

America’s race statistics are inadequate to the policy challenges of the twenty-first century, especially for social justice and immigrant incorporation policy. But inertial forces – technical and political – complicate change. Overcome technical barriers by taking advantage of an experiment fielded in 2010. To miss that opportunity would be a huge failure. Political barriers are more difficult. Start with what is familiar – more emphasis on national origin – and add flexibility and granularity, both are politically desirable. Introduce change without disrupting the existing policy practices. Phase in improvements gradually, taking advantage of generational turnover. One generation changes the statistical basis for policy. The next generation, which has grown up with the new statistics, implements the policy changes. An example of how this works is found in the multiple-race option introduced in the 2000 census but probably not put to policy use until after the 2030 census.

Read the entire rejoinder here.

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The United States of the United Races: a rejoinder

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

The United States of the United Races: a rejoinder

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

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

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

Read the entire rejoinder here.

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