Time to drop racial categories in census

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-08-16 17:09Z by Steven

Time to drop racial categories in census

The Chicago Tribune
2012-08-16

Arthur Caplan, Director of Division of Medical Ethics
Department of Population Health
New York University

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it wants to make a number of changes in how it counts membership in a race. The change is based on an experiment the bureau conducted during the last census in which nearly 500,000 households were given forms with the race and ethnicity questions worded differently from the traditional categories. The results showed that many people who filled out the traditional form did not feel they fit within the five government-defined categories of race: white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native. If Congress approves, the bureau says it plans to stop using the word “Negro” as part of a question asking if a person was “black, African-American or Negro.” There are a number of other changes planned for counting Hispanics and Arab-Americans.

These changes may seem like improvements. They are not. The bureau and Congress ought to be considering a more radical overhaul of the census — dropping questions about race entirely. There are a lot of reasons why.

First, the concept of “race” makes no biological sense. None. The classifications Americans use to divide people into groups and categories have nothing to do with genetics or biology…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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Reading The Human Stain through Charles W. Chesnutt: The Genre of the Passing Novel

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-08-16 03:03Z by Steven

Reading The Human Stain through Charles W. Chesnutt: The Genre of the Passing Novel

Philip Roth Studies
Volume 2, Number 2 (Fall 2006)
pages 138-150
DOI: 10.1353/prs.2011.0066

Matthew Wilson, Professor of English and Humanities
Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg

This article historicizes The Human Stain, placing it in the genre of the passing novel. The analysis is filtered through a reading of Chesnutt’s passing fictions, particularly The House Behind the Cedars and The Quarry.

Philip Roth’s The Human Stain was published in 2000, the year I was on sabbatical writing my book, Whiteness in the Novels of Charles W. Chesnutt. At the time, and even more subsequently, I was struck by the surprising continuities between the passing fictions ot Chesnutt and other writers of his era and Roth’s representation of race in The Human Stain. One of Chesnutt’s novels in particular, The House behind the Cedars (1900), helps us see that although exactly one hundred years separate these two texts, little has changed with regard to race in America. Despite the dismantling of the legal system of American racial apartheid that had its origin in Chesnutt s lifetime, the American racial imagination remains largely intact, and we continue to insist on our racial binary, continue to maintain and police the color line. As Judy Scales-Trent has observed. “[W]hite America expends enormous resources in school and in the media to teach (about) the intrinsic rightness” of the color line, so that it won’t questioned and so that future generations will continue to “stand guard” (481). Of course, the genre in which this standing guard is most obvious is the passing narrative because the liminality of the “white negro” (to use a nineteenth-century locution) calls into question the supposed impermeability of the color line. In this article, I use Chesnutt’s work, both fiction and nonfiction, as a way of approaching the issue of passing and race in The Human Stain, and of exploring the persistence of racial essentialism in American thinking and the responses to that essentialism that maintain the existence of the color line.

Before going on to discuss the issue of race in particular texts, I need to unpack the term “racial essentialism.” As Adrian Piper makes clear in her important esaay “Passing tor White, Passing for Black,” the function of racial…

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Race

Posted in Articles, Books, Media Archive, Passing, Poetry on 2012-08-16 01:07Z by Steven

Race

Poem via Poetry Foundation from:

Antebellum Dream Book
Graywolf Press
2001
72 pages
Paperback ISBN: 1-55597-354-X

Elizabeth Alexander

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?…

Read the entire poem here.

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