The gains and losses of racial “code switching”

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-01-29 16:19Z by Steven

The gains and losses of racial “code switching”

KALW 91.7 FM
San Francisco, California

Hana Baba, News Reporter/Host

On today’s episode of “Crosscurrents,” we are talking about identity. We have heard how people, whether intentionally or not, can “pass” as another race, just by the sound of their voice. Passing can also be a full-time, physical endeavor. The United States has a long history of African Americans who chose to live as white in their daily lives.

Stanford Professor Allyson Hobbs recently released a book covering this history, called A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. Hobbs recently visited KALW, and I asked her to explain when and why this form of “code switching” was preferred.

ALLYSON HOBBS: Particularly during the Jim Crow era, which was the era of legalized segregation, there were many advantages to passing as white. … To pass as white meant to get a better job, it meant to live in a better neighborhood, being treated with much more respect and dignity than African Americans were often treated…

Listen to the interview here.

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A Dialogue on Institutional Colorism and Moving Toward Healing with Dr. Yaba Blay

Posted in Articles, Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Women on 2015-01-29 16:16Z by Steven

A Dialogue on Institutional Colorism and Moving Toward Healing with Dr. Yaba Blay

For Harriet

Kimberly Foster, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

For Harriet is nearly five years old, and I’ve learned there are a few topics that are sure to spark contentious debate. Colorism is one of them. Discussions on colorism provoke strong feelings in Black women, in particular, and it seems that rarely do the conversation’s participants walk away with a deeper understanding of the institutional consequences of colorism or the ways we can move forward in combatting them.

What Bill Duke’s Light Girls documentary sorely missed was the voice of a Black woman colorism scholar, so I felt compelled to speak with Dr. Yaba Blay about how we can have a more effective conversation on colorism in our attempts to heal. Dr. Blay is currently co-director and assistant teaching professor of Africana Studies at Drexel University. She’s the artistic director and producer of the (1)ne Drop Project, and she was a consulting producer for CNN’s Black in America 5.

Read her phenomenal book, (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race

Listen to the interview and read the transcript here.

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Growing up biracial — the importance of words

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-28 23:47Z by Steven

Growing up biracial — the importance of words

The Lincoln Journal Star
Lincoln, Nebraska

Cindy Lange-Kubick, Life columnist

She is in the breakroom at Walgreens Thursday morning, getting ready for a seven-hour shift.

KaDeja Sangoyele is trying not to cry.

She gets emotional, she says. It’s that word — half-breed.

“My life was horrible at times because of words like that,” she says.

KaDeja is talking about a blog, The Objective Conservative, and a post calling Barack Obama the “half-breed” president.

She’s talking about Patrick McPherson, the blog’s founder and co-editor who says he didn’t know about that post or about others, dating to 2011, that use those same words and other slurs and demeaning stereotypes about race.

McPherson is a newly elected member of the Nebraska Board of Education. He’s the former chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party.

Some people are calling for him to resign. Those people include the governor and senators and members of Congress and a multitude of ministers and educators and the NAACP and city council members and many others — both Republicans and Democrats.

And KaDeja, too.

“To be a part of today’s society — you can’t think that’s OK,” she said. “There’s no way.”

Especially for an authority figure, she says. Someone who is supposed to do what’s best for kids.

“It makes me angry.”

KaDeja is 19. She grew up in Lincoln. She’s a sophomore in college; she wants to study psychiatric nursing. She’s taking four classes this semester and working full time. She loves to run and read and listen to live music and watch Netflix; she likes leggings and Lilly Pulitzer and triple Americanos and hanging out with her friends.

She knows what half-breed means. She knows other words like it — meant to denigrate a person because of his or her skin color. The one they called her most was “mutt.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Multiple Meanings of Coloured Identity in South Africa

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2015-01-28 23:17Z by Steven

The Multiple Meanings of Coloured Identity in South Africa

Africa Insight
Volume 42, Number 1 (2012)

Theodore Petrus, Lecturer
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Wendy Isaacs-Martin, Political & Governmental Studies Fellow
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

In post-1994, South African identity has taken centre stage in debates about diversity and its impact in a multicultural society. The coloured people of South Africa seem to have the most at stake in such debates due to the perceived ambiguity of their and others’ perceptions of their identity. This article interrogates the symbology of colouredness by providing a symbolic interpretation of the meanings of the symbols of coloured identity. Through the engagement with relevant literature, the article seeks to identify the symbols of coloured identity and the multivocality of these symbols. Our argument is that a symbological approach to coloured identity opens up possibilities for a variety of meanings that move beyond the historically inherited stereotypical associations with the identity.

Log-in to read the article here.

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Review: Nuance-Deprived “Race” Movie ‘Black or White’ is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-28 20:59Z by Steven

Review: Nuance-Deprived “Race” Movie ‘Black or White’ is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday)

Shadow and Act: On Cinema Of The African Diaspora

Zeba Blay

“Black or White” opens nationwide this Friday, January 30, via Relativity…

Is it any wonder that a movie as lazily titled as “Black or White” fails to actually tackle issues of race and class in any meaningful way? Is it any wonder, when its writer and director is Mike Binder, a (white) filmmaker whose approach to storytelling has often lacked any semblance of nuance and subtlety? The movie, apparently “based on true events,” is about a custody battle over a 7-year-old biracial Eloise (charming child actress Jillian Estell), between her wealthy and recently widowed white grandfather Elliot (Kevin Costner), and black grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer).

When the movie begins, the little girl has been living with her white grandparents since the death of her teen mother at birth. However, after Elliott’s wife dies in a freak car accident, Rowena, a self-made woman who lives in Compton with a tight knit and sprawling extended family, thinks it’s time that Eloise grows up around other black people, fearing that she may lose a sense of her identity.

It’s a fairly intriguing premise, but one that must be handled delicately in order to work. Here, it doesn’t. Very much in the style of past Costner-collaboration, “The Upside of Anger,” Binder’s brand of comedy drama is far too broad. While Costner, whose swaggering charisma has always been his saving grace, turns in a decent performance, hinging on great chemistry with his child co-star, all the swagger in the world couldn’t save this film.

It’s a movie about race that doesn’t actually want to talk about race. Here, the focal point is the wealthy white man who we’re encouraged to root for, from the very beginning, simply by virtue of the fact that he’s in 90% of every scene. Octavia Spencer, once again, is called on to play a variation of the sassy black woman – her acting, as usual, is great, but she’s given little else to do than suck her teeth and roll her eyes, and provide both comic relief and obstacle for Elliot to overcome…

Read the entire review here.

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“A Spirit that Nursed a Grievance:” William Plomer’s “The Child of Queen Victoria”

Posted in Africa, Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa on 2015-01-28 20:48Z by Steven

“A Spirit that Nursed a Grievance:” William Plomer’s “The Child of Queen Victoria”

English in Africa
Volume 39, Number 2 (2012)
DOI: 10.4314/eia.v39i2.7

M Shum

When William Plomer’s The Child of Queen Victoria and Other Stories was published by Jonathan Cape in 1933, his literary reputation was well established: he was the author of two novels, two volumes of short fiction, and three collections of poetry. In addition, he was widely regarded in British literary circles as a significant talent. Edward Garnett, for example, the reader for Cape and the first person in publishing to recognise the talents of Lawrence and Conrad, wrote in a report on The Child of Queen Victoria and Other Stories that “Plomer is certainly the most original and keenest mind of the younger generation” (quoted in Alexander 1990, 192). In short, at the time of writing this story Plomer was operating within a milieu dramatically different from the geographical and artistic isolation in which, aged only nineteen, he had written Turbott Wolfe (1925), the novel on which his South African literary reputation rests. Yet one of the many fascinations of “The Child of Queen Victoria” is that it entails a fairly exact reprise, in the realist mode, of the central thematic strand of his first novel: interracial sex or ‘miscegenation.’ A question immediately arises: what motivated the return to this vexed thematic, and what did Plomer seek to accomplish in this second attempt that, we must assume, he was not able to accomplish in the first?

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Mutt, Monster or Melting-Pot? Mixed-Race Metaphor and Obama’s Ambivalent Hybridity

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2015-01-28 20:12Z by Steven

Mutt, Monster or Melting-Pot? Mixed-Race Metaphor and Obama’s Ambivalent Hybridity

Ada: A Journal of Gender New Media & Technology
Issue #6: Hacking the Black/White Binary (January 2015)

Nathan Rambukkana, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

‘ObamaNation raped & killed 1,000 Christians’

Kenyan citizen Hussein Obama spent $1-million in US campaign funds to massacre 1,000 Christians in British Kenya, after his Communist cousin lost the presidential election. 800 Christian churches were arsoned [sic], with dozens of people cooked alive. Men and women were raped by Obama supporters. To stop the violence, the Kenyan government was extorted by Obama to make his cousin ‘prime minister’, a job that did not exist.

—Anonymous,, October 25, 2008

‘Obama’s Brother in China’

If elected, Obama would be the first genuinely 21st-century leader. The China-Indonesia-Kenya-Britain-Hawaii web mirrors a world in flux. In Kenya, his uncle Sayid, a Muslim, told me: ‘My Islam is a hybrid, a mix of elements, including my Christian schooling and even some African ways. Many values have dissolved in me.’

Obama’s bridge-building instincts come from somewhere. They are rooted and proven. For an expectant and often alienated world, they are of central significance.

Roger Cohen, New York Times, March 17, 2008 [1]

The above two textual excerpts from the period between February 10, 2007 when Obama announced he was running for the Democratic nomination, and November 4, 2008 when he was elected president, are metonymic of the polar opposite ways Barack Obama’s particular hybrid identity is framed and reflected on in the digital public sphere. While the sources are divergent in terms of scope and reach—a mainstream newspaper site and an underground website—the black and white binary of the way they articulate hybridity marks them as part of the same discursive process: one of skinning (Ahmed and Stacey 2001) a powerful and prominent mixed-race subject. This short paper collects some of these varied but linked representations, using a broadly Foucauldian genealogical discourse analysis (Foucault 1980), working together academic and popular discourses and analyzing them in tandem; mixing theory, memory, reflection, and discovery into an archeology of the present cultural moment that pries open the layers of meaning inherent to culture itself.[2] This flexible method allows us to investigate what these prominent representations of mixed-race and hybrid identities do, situated as they are in such a prominent position: attached to a figure as he contended for and then assumed the most privileged seat of power in the US — arguably even world — context.

Drawing on Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacey’s (2001) concept of dermographia, or skin writing, this paper attempts to read the ways that Obama’s skin, as text, is an effect of the various and overlapping ways it is ‘surfaced’ in discourse. At once a real and material organ that wraps and envelops what is currently the world’s most protected of bodies,[3] Obama’s skin is also ‘dependent on regimes of writing that mark the skin in different ways or that produce the skin as marked’ (Ahmed and Stacey 2001, 15). As such, the skin of the ‘leader of the free world’ is at once a private and storied flesh, and a public text that emerges in the intertextual dermographia of its multiform figurings. In fact, writing may even be thought of as a form of skin (Ahmed and Stacy 2001, 15), a second skin that acts as discursive layer between ourselves and the world. The skins of hybrids of multiple sorts are ones that are ambiguously written or written upon: fetishized and demonized, worked on and managed from without and within, hybrids are by nature and nurture hacks of the binaries they straddle, and inherently political as such—though not always through a progressive politics. Many times a hybrid figure, Obama’s body is fetishized, demonized and detailed across the political spectrum both as signifying object and as symbol of multiple politics.

Much has been said about Barack Obama’s body. Even preceding his presidency, Obama was often discussed in a metaphorical manner in the public sphere. Born in Hawai’i to a white mother of mostly English decent, and a Black Kenyan father; raised for a time in Indonesia, and with an Indonesian step-father; and a late-in-life Christian from a family tree containing both Christian and Muslim roots (“Barrack” 2014), his mixed-race, mixed-ethnicity and mixed-religious heritage position him as a hybrid figure par excellence. Coverage on Obama collects the full range of charged metaphor and imagery that prehends to hybridity generally and multiraciality specifically: that of the monstrous chimera, insidious half-breed, or untrustworthy mongrel on the one hand, and of the global-citizen, multiculturalism, bridge, and melting-pot America on the other. But this dense layering of tropes cannot be divided into ‘good’ hybridity metaphor and ‘bad’, for in addition to the strong links between the negative tropes, structural racism and Islamaphobia, the positive tropes that attach to hybridity generally, and modern mixed-race identities specifically, are also discursively implicated with other problematic ideologies such as top-down globalization (Kraidy 2005, 148), the facile ideals of a non-critical post-racial or race-blind society (Sharma and Sharma 2012), and even colonial narratives such as ‘the American Dream’ (Berlant 1997). Accordingly, both the positive and the negative tropes used to mark his hybridity are fraught with intertextual meaning, legacies of power, and politics of privilege…

Read the entire article here.

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Curly Hair

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive on 2015-01-28 17:42Z by Steven

Curly Hair

Mixed Humans ~ Reflections on occupying a space of inbetweenness. Persistently grappling with identity.

Brian Kamanzi
Cape Town, South Africa

My Curly hair.

This hair I have on my head has always been something I’ve had to be conscious about.

Growing up my soft curls where a marker of my “difference”.

Mum had poker straight black hair. That turned the colours of salt and pepper. As we both grow older.

Dad had his hair very short. His was very curly, but it wasn’t like mine.

My curls. When I dared to let them show. Reminded me of the beautiful blend of my parents union.


Read the entire article here.

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Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-28 17:18Z by Steven


Mixed Roots Stories

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

“I wish I had white skin,” my three year-old daughter said, swinging breezily at the park.

Gulp. “Why do you say that, Sweetheart?” I asked, outwardly calm but inwardly exclaiming, Shit! What do I do with this?

“Because all of the friends at school have white skin.” Very matter-of-factly.


I think about race a lot, both professionally and personally, and perhaps more than the average person. I work as a professor teaching race-related literature classes and grew up as a “brown-skinned white girl,” as France Winddance Twine has called mixed race girls raised in white households and predominantly white communities. I remember as a preschooler myself in the 1970s telling my teacher that I wished I had long, blonde hair (and presumably pale skin) and, though I’m embarrassed to admit this deep-seated desire I held at the time, pastel underwear. So I wasn’t entirely surprised that my daughter, the beautifully brown-skinned child of her mixed race father and I, would develop feelings similar to those I’d had as a child, given the predominantly white school she attended.

But so soon? And how did she internalize the idea that dark skin is undesirable when she hasn’t been a TV watcher and has been celebrated with Doc McStuffins and brown baby dolls?…

Read the entire article here.

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Thinking Outside the Box: Multiple Identity Mind-Sets Affect Creative Problem Solving

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-28 02:22Z by Steven

Thinking Outside the Box: Multiple Identity Mind-Sets Affect Creative Problem Solving

Social Psychological and Personality Science
Published online before print: 2015-01-27
DOI: 10.1177/1948550614568866

Sarah E. Gaither, Provost’s Career Enhancement Postdoctoral Scholar
University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Jessica D. Remedios, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

Diana T. Sanchez, Associate Professor of Psychology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Samuel R. Sommers, Associate Professor of Psychology
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

Rigid thinking is associated with less creativity, suggesting that priming a flexible mind-set should boost creative thought. In three studies, we investigate whether priming multiple social identities predicts more creativity in domains unrelated to social identity. Study 1 asked monoracial and multiracial participants to write about their racial identities before assessing creativity. Priming a multiracial’s racial identity led to greater creativity compared to a no-prime control. Priming a monoracial’s racial identity did not affect creativity. Study 2 showed that reminding monoracials that they, too, have multiple identities increased creativity. Study 3 replicated this effect and demonstrated that priming a multiracial identity for monoracials did not affect creativity. These results are the first to investigate the association between flexible identities and flexible thinking, highlighting the potential for identity versatility to predict cognitive differences between individuals who have singular versus multifaceted views of their social selves.

Read or purchase the article here.

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