‘Good Hair': A Cape Verdean Struggles With Her Racial Identity

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive on 2014-05-29 21:32Z by Steven

‘Good Hair': A Cape Verdean Struggles With Her Racial Identity

The Chronicle of Higher Education
2014-05-27

Ana Sofia De Brito

Ana Sofia De Brito graduated from Dartmouth College in 2012 with a major in Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean studies. This essay is adapted from a chapter in the book Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories, edited by Andrew Garrod, Robert Kilkenny, and Christina Gómez (Cornell University Press, 2014).

The issue of race has always been a problem in my Cape Verdean family—and in my life. We constantly argue about whether we’re white or black. My dad says he stayed with my mom to better his race, by lightening the color of his children, and I’d better not mess up his plan by bringing a black boy home.

It wasn’t until I was away at college that I started to question him seriously about his past. It was in Mozambique that my father’s views about race were formed. As the Cape Verdean son of an official in the administration of a Portuguese colony, my father led a privileged life, living in a big house with many servants.

All of that changed when he went away to a boarding school attended almost entirely by the children of white Portuguese settlers. My dad was neither Portuguese nor white, so he was constantly bullied, beaten up, made fun of, and humiliated. The whiter students called him “nigger” and other epithets, the very names he now calls people who are darker than he is. Had my dad’s family stayed in Cape Verde, where color lines are blurred and there is no outright racism, I believe my dad would not be the way he is.

My mother is the lightest in our family, and her thin, fine hair goes with the rest of her features. She has round dark eyes and a straight, European-­looking nose, the thin lips associated with being white, and a pale complexion. My brother and I both inherited many of her features, but our noses differ. Mine is broader and his is straighter, on account of our having different dads. And even though we have similar features and complexions, we have different mind-sets. We both identify strongly as Cape Verdean; he, however, identifies with being white, whereas I identify with being black.

It gets complicated when my family talks about skin color. They believe that black is ugly, but so is being “too white”; our Cape Verdean color is just right. The reality is that Cape Verdeans are mixed both culturally and racially, and are many different shades…

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Cape Verdean identity in a land of Black and White

Posted in Africa, Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-05-31 18:45Z by Steven

Cape Verdean identity in a land of Black and White

Ethnicities
Volume 12, Number 3
pages 354-379
DOI: 10.1177/1468796811419599

Gene A. Fisher, Professor Emerita of Sociology
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Suzanne Model, Professor Emerita of Sociology
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Cape Verde is an island group off the African coast with a history of slavery. Its residents having both European and African ancestors, they consider themselves a mixed-race people. Residents of the United States, however, observe the one-drop rule: anyone with a perceptible trace of African blood is defined as Black. This difference motivates us to ask: how do Cape Verdean Americans answer questions about their racial identity? Strict assimilationists predict that, as they adapt to their new home, Cape Verdeans will identify less as mixed-race than as White or Black. Others suggest that the quality of race relations at the time immigrants arrive affects their identity. We test these ideas using data from the 2000 US Census and the American Community Survey. Our multivariate analysis shows that some, but not all, forms of assimilation increase the odds of identifying as Black. The odds of identifying as White, on the other hand, have little to do with assimilation. The timing of arrival also has a significant effect on racial identity, with Black gaining popularity among recent immigrants.

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“Our Ancestors came from many Bloods”. Gendered Narrations of a Hybrid Nation

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2012-04-14 01:16Z by Steven

“Our Ancestors came from many Bloods”. Gendered Narrations of a Hybrid Nation

Lusotopie
Volume 12, Issue 1 (2005)
pages 217-232
DOI: 10.1163/176830805774719728

Isabel P.B. Fêo Rodrigues, Professor of Anthropology
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Narratives of mixed ancestry in Cape Verde use gender as common denominator in the weaving of a Creole nation. These narratives may hide tensions, conflicts, and adversities, but they also contain elements of fusion and national cohesion. They are and have been gendered narratives, partial and selective of the elements of fusion substantiating and sustaining a Cape Verdean identity vis-à-vis the multiple symbolic and material challenges faced by this young post-colonial nation-state. In them, Cape Verde is portrayed as an exceptional African case with boundaries carved by the ocean, free from ethnic conflict, and without a pre-colonial past through which to filter present realities.

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