Transforming Three Sisters: A Hapa Family in Chekhov’s Modern Classic

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-12-08 04:01Z by Steven

Transforming Three Sisters: A Hapa Family in Chekhov’s Modern Classic

Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies
Volume 3 (2012): Special Issue: Mixed Heritage Asian American Literature
pages 130-146

Elizabeth Liang

“All right, let’s agree that this town is backward and vulgar, and let’s suppose now that out of all its thousands of  inhabitants there are only three people like you… But you won’t simply disappear; you will have some influence. And after you’ve gone there will be six more, let’s say, like you, then twelve, and so on, until finally people like you will be in the majority. In two or three hundred years, life on earth will be unimaginably beautiful, astonishing.” (Vershinin in Act I of Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, translated by Paul Schmidt)

It is an act of courage or foolhardiness to produce theatre in the heart of the film world, depending on your point of view and how large the houses turn out to be. In the fall of 2005, I produced Three Sisters in a 60-seat theatre in Burbank, California (home of Disney and Warner Brothers). The odds were stacked even higher against the show’s success when my assistant producer and I stipulated that the main characters, the upper-class and highly educated Russian Prozorov siblings, had to be played by Hapa actors. I chose to foreground mixed heritage Asians because I am Hapa and wanted to see something akin to my own family on stage. The play had never been cast this way anywhere according to my research. Meanwhile, I assumed that our audience would be largely European American, because that is usually the case whenever I attend the theatre. Thus it was difficult to predict if this production would spark any interest in the average L.A. theatregoer, since people tend to flock toward stories to which they can relate. I hoped that they would be intrigued by our unusual “take” on a play with which they were likely familiar (as it is one of Chekhov’s most popular works), but I also worried that they would feel the ethnic “layering” was forced and unnatural, or that we were trying to teach them something they had no interest in learning. My reasons for casting the siblings as Hapa were manifold:

  • To deliberately represent a section of the population that is normally under- and misrepresented. Census 2000 proved that over 6.8 million or 2.4 percent of Americans considered themselves multi-ethnic. 25 percent of those people resided in California. (And Census 2010 discovered that over 9 million or 2.9 percent of Americans considered themselves to belong to two or more racial groups. Among those, Asian and white are the third most common pairing.)
  • To allow the actors to interpret legendary roles in which they might not normally get cast.
  • To further emphasize the difference of the Prozorov family from others by adding race to Chekhov’s division based on class and education.
  • To tell the audience a mixed heritage story without making it feel like a classroom lesson…

Read the entire article here.

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Should “Latino” be a Race on the Census?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-10-29 16:08Z by Steven

Should “Latino” be a Race on the Census?

National Institute for Latino Policy
Guest Commentary
2014-10-26

Thomas Lopez, President
Multiracial Americans of Southern California

Few questions cause as much existential angst among Latino intellectuals as this one. The Latino origin question was added to the Census in such a hurry back in 1970, that little thought was likely given to how it would fold into the existing racial categories at the time. It has remained a separate question ever since; thus was born the ubiquitous phrase “Latino (or Hispanic) can be of any race.”  It has been stated so often that it has become more of a platitude than a validated scientific fact.  Kudos should be given to the Census Bureau for finally addressing this issue.  Even if nothing changes in the Census, just considering the question forces us into a deeper conversation about identity in general. Because in order to answer the question of whether or not Latino should be a race, one must first answer a more fundamental question: what is race?

Perhaps it would be easier to start with what race isn’t. There is no biological or genetic basis for race. The full argument supporting this assertion is beyond the scope of this commentary so we will just have to accept that as truth for now.  So what is race? Race is a social construct, which is fancy academic speak for simply being made up. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have meaning just because it is made up. We infuse numerous social constructs with meaning. However, it does create a challenge for demographers to determine what society considers a race and what it doesn’t. The key is looking at the context in which it is used…

Read the entire article here.

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Another layer of blackness: theorizing race, ethnicity, and identity in the U.S. black public sphere

Posted in Barack Obama, Dissertations, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-24 18:13Z by Steven

Another layer of blackness: theorizing race, ethnicity, and identity in the U.S. black public sphere

University of Iowa
2013
277 pages

Patrick B. Oray

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in American Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa

While many studies of U.S. immigration highlight the diversity within other racial and ethnic groups, scholarly attention to the significance of ethnicity among black people in this country is still sorely underdeveloped. This dissertation project explores how black identities are constructed not only through the prism of race in the U.S. context, but also through other social dynamics that operate “in the shadow of race,” such as differences in class, color, country of origin, and circumstances of migration. Instead of a singular black identity fueled by our political discourses and popular culture, my project treats “blackness” as a floating signifier that is constructed both within the racial organization of the U.S. nation-state and among the peoples of the black diaspora within its borders. In short, blackness is a matter that has become national, international, and transnational in scope.

Ethnicity and its implications for how we think about black identity and group representation in U.S. society is the other “layer of blackness” this dissertation addresses. The formation and reshaping of American identity among various immigrant groups have historically involved complicated relationships between race and ethnicity, two concepts scholars have used to articulate group identities in the U.S. The history of U.S. racial and ethnic relations reveals the complicated processes through which some social groups have been able to establish their place in the American mainstream by adapting to the cultural and institutional norms established by mainstream white society. Non-white immigrant groups have been forced to find their American identities on the margins of U.S. society because of their purported inability or unwillingness to assimilate to established cultural and institutional norms. Sometimes this alienation from the American mainstream takes on a purely racial dimension. At other times, the prejudices of U.S. society are directed at particular ethnic groups.

But in spite of the status ascribed to them, these immigrants have also proven to be empowered agents in their implicit and explicit critiques of the U.S.’s social order. Historically, non-white immigrants in the U.S. have demonstrated the power to question, disrupt, and resist cultural and institutional forms of discrimination even as they are incorporated into them.

My interrogation of black ethnic identity and what it brings to bear on how we define blackness in the U.S. begins by asking what cultural capital black immigrants bring with them in their sojourn to America rather than assuming what is lost in the process of their incorporation into U.S. race relations. Patterns of immigration, return migration and circular migration that have come to characterize the experience of many foreign-born blacks in the U.S., as well as the circulation of ideas, culture, and history between sending and receiving countries are all issues germane to the process of black immigrant incorporation and black ethnic identity in the U.S. As such, the argument I proffer in my dissertation project is this: because of the myriad processes at play in formulating black racial and ethnic identities in America (i.e., historically established structures of race as well as an unprecedented surge in foreign-born black migration this country)-how we define blackness in the U.S. context is more fruitfully theorized as a matter that is at once national, international, and transnational in scope. It is at the nexus of these fronts that the historical and cultural constructions of blackness are currently defined among the diversity of black people in the U.S.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • I. BLACK LIKE WHOM?: AN INTRODUCTION TO RACE, CLASS, AND ETHNICITY IN THE UNITED STATES BLACK PUBLIC SPHERE
    • 1.1 Ethnicity as “Another Layer of Blackness”
    • 1.2 Theorizing the U.S. Black Public Sphere
    • 1.3 Uncovering an Ethnic Layer of Blackness in the U.S. Black Public Sphere
  • II. “NO BOOTBLACK HAITIANS:” BLACK COSMOPOLITAN CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE U.S. OCCUPATION OF HAITI (1915-1934)
    • 2.1 The Roots of Black Cosmopolitan Consciousness in the U.S.: The African-American Press Response to the Occupation
    • 2.2 Cosmopolitanism and the U.S. Black Public Sphere: The Occupation, The New Negro Movement, and the Harlem Renaissance
    • 2.3 The Limits of Cosmopolitanism in the U.S. Black Public Sphere
  • III. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN “BROTHERS” AND “OTHERS” (REPRISE): AFRICAN-AMERICANS, BLACK IMMIGRANTS, AND THE POLITICS OF PLACE
    • 3.1 African Americans and the Transformation of the “Chocolate City” of Oakland, California
    • 3.2 “Challenges to “Umoja” (Unity): The Close Encounters of Black Americans and Black Immigrants in Oakland
    • 3.3 The “Blues City” Finds a New Identity“
  • IV. RACE AND REPRESENTATIONS OF BLACKNESS IN THE ERA OF OBAMA
    • 4.1 Obama’s Presidential Conceit: A “Black Man” Who is Also “Everyman”
    • 4.2 “Articulate, Bright, and Clean”: Barack Obama and the Melodrama of Blackness in Campaign ‘08
    • 4.3 Obama Walks the Tightrope Between “Race” and “Nation”
  • V. CONCLUSION: W(H)ITHER THE BLACK PUBLIC SPHERE?: RACE, ETHNICITY AND IDENTITY IN THE ERA OF OBAMA
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Divergence or Convergence in the U.S. and Brazil: Understanding Race Relations Through White Family Reactions to Black-White Interracial Couples

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-16 19:25Z by Steven

Divergence or Convergence in the U.S. and Brazil: Understanding Race Relations Through White Family Reactions to Black-White Interracial Couples

Qualitative Sociology
March 2014, Volume 37, Issue 1
pages 93-115
DOI: 10.1007/s11133-013-9268-2

Chinyere Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

Different approaches to race mixture in the U.S. and Brazil have led to the notion that they are polar opposites in terms of race relations. However, the end of de jure segregation in the U.S., the acknowledgement of racial inequality, and subsequent implementation of affirmative action in Brazil have called into question the extent to which these societies are vastly different. By examining race mixture as a lived reality, this study offers a novel approach to understanding racial boundaries in these two contexts. I analyze 87 interviews with individuals in black-white couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro to examine the cultural repertoires and discursive traditions they draw on to understand white families’ reactions to black spouses. I find that U.S. couples employ “color-blindness” to understand opposition to Blacks marrying into the family. Brazilian couples perceive overt racism and the use of humor from white family members. Nevertheless, couples with black males experienced more hostility in both sites. In addition, white male autonomy was related to the lower hostility that black female-white male couples experienced in both societies. By examining contemporary race mixture as a lived reality, this study complicates simplistic understandings of race relations as similar or different in these two societies. Furthermore, with the increase of multiracial families in both societies, it reveals the family as an important site for redrawing and policing racial boundaries.

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Racial ‘Boundary-policing’: Perceptions of Black-White Interracial Couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-16 18:15Z by Steven

Racial ‘Boundary-policing’: Perceptions of Black-White Interracial Couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
Volume 10 / Issue 01 / Spring 2013
pages 179-203
DOI: 10.1017/S1742058X13000118

Chinyere K. Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

As people who cross racial boundaries in the family formation process, the experiences of interracial couples can actually reveal the nature of racial boundaries within and across societies. I draw on in-depth qualitative interviews with eighty-seven respondents in interracial Black and White couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro to compare perceptions of public stigmatization by outsiders, a term I call “boundary-policing.” I find that couples in Los Angeles perceive gendered, Black individuals as perpetrators of this boundary-policing. In Rio de Janeiro, couples perceive regionalized and classed, White perpetrators. These findings suggest that in the United States and Brazil, racial boundaries are intertwined with class and gender boundaries to shape negotiation of boundary-policing in the two contexts. This analysis builds on previous studies of ethnoracial boundaries by showing how individuals reinforce and negotiate them through interpersonal relations. It demonstrates the similarities and differences in the negotiation and reinforcement of racial boundaries in the two sites.

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Parents’ Nightmare: Futile Race to Stop Killings

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2014-05-26 05:31Z by Steven

Parents’ Nightmare: Futile Race to Stop Killings

The New York Times
2014-05-25

Adam Nagourney

It was Friday evening when the parents of Elliot O. Rodger clicked open the 140-page manifesto emailed to them from their son and learned of his plans for mass murder and suicide. Frightened and alarmed, they called 911 and then raced to Isla Vista, Calif., in separate cars from Los Angeles, desperate to stop him.

It was too late.

By the time they arrived, Mr. Rodger had killed six people, the police said, and had died of a self-inflicted gunshot — a display of violence that stunned the quiet ocean-side college town.

In truth, Mr. Rodger had been planning his “Day of Retribution,” as he called it in that manifesto, for three years, from the summer day that he moved into a small apartment with two roommates, the first time he lived away from home. He had arrived hoping to escape the sexual rejections that he had raged against through adolescence, but as he simmered at the happy couples walking down the streets, his thoughts turned from starting a new life to exacting revenge.

“I couldn’t believe how wrong everything was turning out,” Mr. Rodger, 22, wrote in the manifesto he sent shortly before stabbing to death three people in his apartment, including his two roommates, whom he described as “repulsive.”…

From the Manifesto titled “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger” Page 1:

…On the morning of July 24th, 1991, in a London hospital, I was born. I breathed in the first breath of life as I entered this world, weighing only 5.4 pounds. My parents must have been filled with happiness and pride that day. They had just witnessed the birth of their first child, and they named me Elliot Oliver Robertson Rodger.

I was born to young parents. My father, Peter Rodger, was only 26 when he impregnated my mother, Chin, who was 30. Peter is of British descent, hailing from the prestigious Rodger family; a family that was once part of the wealthy upper classes before they lost all of their fortune during the Great Depression. My father’s father, George Rodger, was a renowned photojournalist who had taken very famous photographs during the Second World War, though he failed to reacquire the family’s lost fortune. My mother is of Chinese descent. She was born in Malaysia, and moved to England at a young age to work as a nurse on several film sets, where she became friends with very important individuals in the film industry, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. She even dated George Lucas for a short time.

My mother and father had been married for a couple of years before my mother became pregnant with me. In fact, her pregnancy was an accident. She had been taking pills to prevent pregnancy, but when she visited my father on one of his film sets, she fell ill and the medication she took for that illness thwarted the effect of the anti-pregnancy pills, and so their lovemaking during this period resulted in my life.

Only a couple of months after my birth, I went on my first vacation. My parents took me on a boat to France. I was already a traveler! Of course, I have no memories of this trip. My mother said that I cried a lot…

From pages 17-18:

…When I became aware of this common social structure at my school, I also started to examine myself and compare myself to these “cool kids”. I realized, with some horror, that I wasn’t “cool” at all. I had a dorky hairstyle, I wore plain and uncool clothing, and I was shy and unpopular. I was always described as the shy boy in the past, but I never really thought my shyness would affect me in a negative way, until this point.

This revelation about the world, and about myself, really decreased my self-esteem. On top of this was the feeling that I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with.

I envied the cool kids, and I wanted to be one of them. I was a bit frustrated at my parents for not shaping me into one of these kids in the past. They never made an effort to dress me in stylish clothing or get me a good-looking haircut. I had to make every effort to rectify this. I had to adapt.

My first act was to ask my parents to allow me to bleach my hair blonde. I always envied and admired blonde-haired people, they always seemed so much more beautiful. My parents agreed to let me do it, and father took me to a hair salon on Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills. Choosing that hair salon was a bad decision, for they only bleached the top of my head blonde. When I indignantly questioned why they didn’t make all of my hair blonde, they said that I was too young for a full bleaching. I was furious. I thought I looked so silly with blonde hair at the top of my head and black hair at the sides and back. I dreaded going to school the next day with this weird new hair.

When I arrived at school the next day, I was intensely nervous. Before class started, I stood in a corner franticly trying to figure out how I would go about revealing this to everyone. Trevor was the first one to notice it, and he came up to me and patted my head, saying that it was very “cool”. Well, that was exactly what I wanted. My new hair turned out to be quite a spectacle, and for a few days I got a hint of the attention and admiration I so craved…

From page 84:

…My first week turned out to be very unpleasant, leaving a horrific first impression of my new life in Santa Barbara. My two housemates were nice, but they kept inviting over this friend of theirs named Chance. He was black boy who came over all the time, and I hated his cocksure attitude. Inevitably, a vile incident occurred between me and him. I was eating a meal in the kitchen when he came over and started bragging to my housemates about his success with girls. I couldn’t stand it, so I proceeded to ask them all if they were virgins. They all looked at me weirdly and said that they had lost their virginity long ago. I felt so inferior, as it reminded me of how much I have missed out in life. And then this black boy named Chance said that he lost his virginity when he was only thirteen! In addition, he said that the girl he lost his virginity to was a blonde white girl! I was so enraged that I almost splashed him with my orange juice. I indignantly told him that I did not believe him, and then I went to my room to cry. I cried and cried and cried, and then I called my mother and cried to her on the phone.

How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more. I tried not to believe his foul words, but they were already said, and it was hard to erase from my mind. If this is actually true, if this ugly black filth was able to have sex with a blonde white girl at the age of thirteen while I’ve had to suffer virginity all my life, then this just proves how ridiculous the female gender is. They would give themselves to this filthy scum, but they reject ME? The injustice!…

…His parents’ frantic trip to Isla Vista was just one missed chance to avert the tragedy. In this case, the parents’ emergency call to the police and their arrival came well after the killing spree was over.

Only weeks earlier, in late April, deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office had stopped by Mr. Rodger’s apartment at the request of state mental health officials, acting on an expression of concern by his mother. They left after a calm and polite Mr. Rodger assured them that there was nothing to worry about. The officers reported that Mr. Rodger was shy and had told them that he was having difficulties in his social life.

That gave them little ground on which to act, under California law. Because Mr. Rodger was never institutionalized because of his emotional problems, he was able to legally purchase the weaponry he used in the shooting…

Read the entire article here. Read Rodgers’s manifesto here.

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San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2014-02-12 08:00Z by Steven

San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown

University of Oklahoma Press
2014
264 pages
8.5″ x 11″
Illustrations: 20 b&w and 125 color illus.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806144108

Robert J. Chandler, Retired Senior Research Historian
Wells Fargo Bank

A lavishly illustrated biography of an often overlooked artist and his work

Grafton Tyler Brown—whose heritage was likely one-eighth African American—finessed his way through San Francisco society by passing for white. Working in an environment hostile to African American achievement, Brown became a successful commercial artist and businessman in the rough-and-tumble gold rush era and the years after the Civil War. Best known for his bird’s-eye cityscapes, he also produced and published maps, charts, and business documents, and he illustrated books, sheet music, advertisements, and labels for cans and other packaging.

This biography by a distinguished California historian gives an underappreciated artist and his work recognition long overdue. Focusing on Grafton Tyler Brown’s lithography and his life in nineteenth-century San Francisco, Robert J. Chandler offers a study equally fascinating as a business and cultural history and as an introduction to Brown the artist.

Chandler’s contextualization of Brown’s career goes beyond the issue of race. Showing how Brown survived and flourished as a businessman, Chandler offers unique insight into the growth of printing and publishing in California and the West. He examines the rise of lithography, its commercial and cultural importance, and the competition among lithographic companies. He also analyzes Brown’s work and style, comparing it to the products of rival firms.

Brown was not respected as a fine artist until after his death. Collectors of western art and Americana now recognize the importance of Californiana and of Brown’s work, some of which depicts Portland and the Pacific Northwest, and they will find Chandler’s checklist, descriptions, and reproductions of Brown’s ephemera—including billheads and maps—as uniquely valuable as Chandler’s contribution to the cultural and commercial history of California. In an afterword, historian Shirley Ann Wilson Moore discusses the circumstances and significance of passing in nineteenth-century America.

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How I Learned To Feel Undesirable

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2014-02-11 04:16Z by Steven

How I Learned To Feel Undesirable

Code Switch: Fronter of Race, Culure and Ethnicity
National Public Radio
2014-02-04

Noah Cho

For the past few weeks, we’ve convened a conversation about romance across racial and cultural lines. Some of the most eloquent accounts we encountered came from a Bay Area junior high school teacher named Noah Cho. We asked him to expand on some of his experiences in this essay.

It’s an odd feeling, as an adult, to look at a photo of your parents and feel perplexed by it. As a young child, I believed that most sets of parents looked like mine — a Korean man, a white woman — and it never registered to me that other parents looked different, or that their love could be something culturally undesirable.

But as I have moved through 32 years of looking at myself in the mirror, a time in which the vast majority of interracial couples I have known have looked nothing like my parents, I have come to see their love as something rare. Most men in interracial couples I have encountered do not look like my dad. They do not have his skin tone, or his combination of dark hair and dark eyes. My mom often tells me stories about when she began dating my father in suburban New Jersey in the 1970s, and I could only infer from her stories that her predominantly white community felt confused and unsure why a white woman would find an Asian man attractive.

I learned, slowly, painfully, over the course of my life that most people shared the opinion of my mother’s community. I know this, because I look like my father.

When I look in the mirror, I do not see someone that I understand to be handsome by Western standards. I look mostly Asian, and like so many other heterosexual Asian males before me, I have internalized a lifetime of believing that my features, my face, my skin tone, in tandem, make me unattractive and undesirable…

Read the entire article here.

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Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego [Floyd Review]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-12-26 18:42Z by Steven

Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego [Floyd Review]

The Journal of San Diego History
Volume 59, Number 4 (Fall 2013)
pages 291-292

Carlton Floyd, Associate Professor of English
University of San Diego

Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego. By Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012. Maps, photographs, tables, notes, and index. 256 pp. $25.95 paper.

Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego by Rudy P. Guevarra Jr. deftly explores his Filipino and Mexican familial history from its origins in Spanish colonialism to its current Mexipino configurations in San Diego. Addressing a subject that has received little extended critical attention, Guevarra argues that Spain’s sixteenth-century colonial enterprises brought Mexicans and Filipinos together in ways that facilitated their intimate interaction. First, they shared or, more aptly, endured enslavement and indentured servitude as well as the interest in surviving these perilous conditions. Second, Mexicans and Filipinos took on a common language and religion: Spanish and Catholicism. Third, they discovered themselves in possession of a similar sense of familial arrangements—in the notions of godparents and in the practice of coming-of-age ceremonies for young women, to cite two examples. These various conditions facilitated intimate interethnic relationships then, and foreshadowed similar intimate interactions centuries later, particularly in the western parts of the United States…

Read the entire review here.

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American Sons & Daughters: Mixed Race, Identity in Southern California

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2013-12-05 18:32Z by Steven

American Sons & Daughters: Mixed Race, Identity in Southern California

KCET Television
Burbank, California
2013-12-04

Susan Straight, Professor of Creative Writing
University of California, Riverside

This is how we began. I looked out at the 300 faces before me and said, “How many of you in this classroom are often asked, in a bar or a store or at a party, What are you?” Maybe a hundred young people raised their hands, and they couldn’t believe that’s what we would spend ten weeks talking about.

“People will guess, all the time, and they’re never right,” one young woman said.

“People think I’m black because of my hair. But I’m Ashkenazi Jewish,” a young man said.

“People think I’m Asian because of my eyes,” someone else said.

“My son is really light, because he’s Mexican-Irish,” said Arely, who is Mexican-American, standing in front of the class and showing her children from a cell phone photo onto the screens. “But my daughter is darker, since she’s Mexican-Colombian, and everyone talks about that. I already know how hard that’s going to be for her.”

The class is “The Mixed Race Novel and the American Experience.” But of course we didn’t talk only about books — we talked about who we are, how America sees us, how our families see us, and most importantly, how we see ourselves. We talked about America’s ongoing obsession with hair and melanin, about what it means to be undocumented, what it means to be a mother, what it means to witness a murder or to lose a dog. But all those discussions began with what it means to be of mixed racial and cultural heritage, and many students in this class at UC Riverside say this was their first time ever talking about these very personal things in an open forum…

Read the entire article here.

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