The Post-Racial Mystique: Media and Race in the Twenty-First Century

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-09 17:41Z by Steven

The Post-Racial Mystique: Media and Race in the Twenty-First Century

New York University Press
April 2014
256 pages
9 halftones and 7 tables
Cloth ISBN: 9780814762899
Paper ISBN: 9780814770603

Catherine R. Squires, Associate Professor of Communication Studies
University of Minnesota

Despite claims from pundits and politicians that we now live in a post-racial America, people seem to keep finding ways to talk about race—from celebrations of the inauguration of the first Black president to resurgent debates about police profiling, race and racism remain salient features of our world. When faced with fervent anti-immigration sentiments, record incarceration rates of Blacks and Latinos, and deepening socio-economic disparities, a new question has erupted in the last decade: What does being post-racial mean?

The Post-Racial Mystique explores how a variety of media—the news, network television, and online, independent media—debate, define and deploy the term “post-racial” in their representations of American politics and society. Using examples from both mainstream and niche media—from prime-time television series to specialty Christian media and audience interactions on social media—Catherine Squires draws upon a variety of disciplines including communication studies, sociology, political science, and cultural studies in order to understand emergent strategies for framing post-racial America. She reveals the ways in which media texts cast U.S. history, re-imagine interpersonal relationships, employ statistics, and inventively redeploy other identity categories in a quest to formulate different ways of responding to race.

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Mixed-Race Chic

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-15 20:08Z by Steven

Mixed-Race Chic

The Chronicle Review
The Chronicle of Higher Education
2009-05-19

Rainier Spencer, Director and Professor of Afro-American Studies; Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Popular wisdom suggests that we are in the midst of a transformation in the way race is constructed in the United States. Indeed, so strong and so inevitable is this shift said to be that longstanding racial dynamics are purportedly being dismantled and reconstructed even as you read these words.

According to this view, individuals of mixed race, particularly first-generation multiracial people, are confounding the American racial template with their ambiguous phenotypes and purported ability to serve as living bridges between races. This perspective is reflected in television and magazine advertising and coverage and in books both academic and nonacademic. As long as a decade ago, the sociologist Kathleen Odell Korgen wrote in From Black to Biracial: Transforming Racial Identity Among Americans (Praeger, 1998) that “today mixed-race Americans challenge the very foundation of our racial structure.”

From his well-received speech on race, in which he positioned himself as having a direct understanding of both black and white anger, to his reference to himself as a “mutt,” Barack Obama and his historic election have significantly boosted this view. Many Americans hail his background as portending our postracial future. We hear that self-styled multiracial young adults accept their mixed identity far more than did their pre-civil-rights-era predecessors; but precisely what they are actually assenting to and what it means may be little more than a fad.

People who see us accepting a new multiracial identity have long argued that it is destructive of race: that recognition and acceptance of multiracialism will bring about the demise of the American racial model. The American Multiracial Identity Movement thereby suggests that multiracial identity possesses an insurgent character, a militant stance against the idea of recognizing race in the United States.

Regardless of their contemporary popularity, such claims are without merit. Indeed, they are self-contradictory. If one holds that multiracial identity is a real and valid identity, then it can be sensible only as a biological racial identity. If words are to mean anything, and they should, it quite obviously cannot be that a multiracial identity is somehow not a biological racial identity. Rather, multiracial identity merely falls in place to join other, already existing racial categories…

…As Catherine R. Squires, a professor of journalism, writes in Dispatches From the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America (State University of New York Press, 2007), multiracialism is fundamentally ambiguous: “This ambiguity is about exoticism and intrigue, providing opportunities for consumers to fantasize and speculate about the Other with no expectations of critical consideration of power and racial categories.” Squires makes an important point, for it is crucial to be able to separate racial ambiguity that might be utilized to work consciously against racial hierarchies from racial ambiguity that is simply a form of self-interested celebration that ends up reinforcing those racial hierarchies…

Read the entire article here.

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The Obama Effect: Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign

Posted in Anthologies, Barack Obama, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-03-27 04:00Z by Steven

The Obama Effect: Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign

SUNY Press
September 2010
300 pages
Hardcover ISBN10: 1-4384-3659-9; ISBN13: 978-1-4384-3659-3
eBook SBN10: 1-4384-3661-0; ISBN13: 978-1-4384-3661-6

Edited by:

Heather E. Harris, Associate Professor of Business Communication
Stevenson University, Stevenson, Maryland

Kimberly R. Moffitt, Assistant Professor of American Studies
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Catherine R. Squires, John and Elizabeth Bates Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity, and Equality
University of Minnesota


Timely, multidisciplinary analysis of Obama’s presidential campaign, its context, and its impact.

November 4, 2008 ushered in a historic moment: Illinois Senator Barack Obama was elected the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. In The Obama Effect, editors Heather E. Harris, Kimberly R. Moffitt, and Catherine R. Squires bring together works that place Barack Obama’s candidacy and victory in the context of the American experience with race and the media. Following Obama’s victory, optimists claimed that the campaign signaled the arrival of an era of postracism and postfeminism in the United States. This collection of essays, all presented at a national conference to discuss the meaning and impact of the nomination of the first presidential candidate of African descent, remind the reader that reaching a point in U.S. history where a biracial man could be deemed “electable” is part of a still-ongoing struggle. It resists the temptation to dismiss the uncertainty, hope, and fear that characterized the events and discourse of the two-year primary and general election cycle and brings together multidisciplinary approaches to assessing “the Obama effect” on public discourse and participation. This volume provides readers with a means for recalling and mapping out the enduring issues that erupted during the campaign—issues that will continue to shape how our society views itself and President Obama in the coming years.

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Diversity That Matters: A Commitment to Social Justice

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-10-02 04:37Z by Steven

Diversity That Matters: A Commitment to Social Justice

CCCC: Supporting and promoting the teaching and study of college composition and communication
2009-06-04

Annette Harris Powell, Assistant Professor of English
Bellarmine University

I teach at a university with a mission grounded in the Catholic Intellectual tradition of faith and reason and focused on the examined life as a way to encourage students to be discerning. We also teach students to become critically engaged in social justice issues that support global sustainability as it embraces “cross-cultural and inter-faith awareness and diversity.” Yet, I frequently get the following student responses to readings:

“I really can’t relate to this experience; it’s very different.”
“These kinds of things don’t really happen here.” Or,
“I don’t really understand why they live like this.”

Commentary such as this is nothing new to me—majority students, in particular, have always been somewhat resistant when asked to reflect on the limits of their own experiences. They continue to be skeptical of, or indifferent to diversity and multiculturalism. This view is doubly complicated by the apparent shifting dynamics of race in this age of “change.” There is growing popular discourse about the imminence of a post-race era. Increasing numbers of both majority students and students of color are now more resistant to “diversity talk,” often asserting that they see no need in dredging up history—“it’s a different day.” The civil rights movement was successful—there is so much more access today…

…Though it’s difficult to say with certainty what accounts for the above responses, economic and class demographics are, I suspect, one indicator. Recently, some scholars (See Jared Sexton’s Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism and Catherine R. Squires’s Dispatches From the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America) have critiqued multiracialism and its attendant ambiguity as “bridges between the races.” Squires argues that “this ambiguity is about exoticism and intrigue, providing opportunities for consumers to fantasize and speculate about the Other with no expectations of critical consideration of power and racial categories.” This re-positioning of race by many Americans contributes to the conception of race as fluid and neutral. This view is acontextual and ahistorical—race and its underlying societal meaning can be manipulated so that “choice” (the decision to belong/not belong, to be fluid, to move in/out) will maintain the current paradigm of inequality. In the May 29, 2009 issue of The Chronicle Review, Rainier Spencer, a professor of anthropology argues that “what popular wisdom tells us is the supposed twilight of how Americans have thought about race is merely a minor tweaking of the same old racial hierarchy that has kept African-Americans at the bottom of our paradigm since its very inception. Multiracial ideology simply represents the latest means of facilitating and upholding that hierarchy—while claiming quite disingenuously to be doing the opposite” (B5). I would suggest that students and scholars in the field question this facile conception of race…

Read the entire article here.

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Reducing Race: News Themes in the 2008 Primaries

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2010-09-29 07:01Z by Steven

Reducing Race: News Themes in the 2008 Primaries

The International Journal of Press/Politics
Volume 15, Number 4 (October 2010)
pages 375-400
DOI: 10.1177/1940161210372962

Catherine R. Squires, Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality
University of Minnesota

Sarah J. Jackson
University of Minnesota

This article presents a content analysis exploring how racial issues were addressed in newspaper and news magazine coverage of the 2008 Democratic primaries. Despite the presence of Latino and biracial candidates, discussion of race was limited by binary racial frames, resulting in the construction of racial groups as competing voting blocs (including frequent references to white voters) and few references to Barack Obama’s biracial heritage. The dominant framing constricted the range of racial issues to matters of interpersonal insensitivity and misguided statements and ignored matters of public policy and racial equity.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Running Through the Trenches: Or, an Introduction to the Undead Culture Wars and Dead Serious Identity Politics

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, New Media, United States on 2010-09-12 01:48Z by Steven

Running Through the Trenches: Or, an Introduction to the Undead Culture Wars and Dead Serious Identity Politics

Journal of Communication Inquiry
Volume 34, Number 3 (July 2010)
pages 210-253

Catherine R. Squires, Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality
University of Minnesota

The events of the 2008 election continue to spark prognostications that we live in a world that is postracial/feminist, and so on. At the 2009 NCA (National Communication Association) convention, a panel of communication scholars discussed how to approach questions of identity and communication over the next 5 years. Participants suggested ways to be critical of assertions of “post” and elaborated ways to encounter new dimensions of identification in an era of immense sociopolitical challenges. This forum revisits the exchanged dialogues among the participants at the roundtable and further explores the meaning of post- in post-America.

Part I: A Meditation on a Mutt in the White House

As the press scrutinized his family’s process of choosing a canine companion, President Obama noted his preference for a “mutt,” and playfully characterized himself as “a mutt.” His remarks simultaneously conjure theories of transgressive cultural hybridity and the theory of hybrid vigor. Jon Powell opined that we’d know multiracialism was real when whiteness was not dependent upon purity; when one such as Obama could as easily claim white as black racial identity. The scene at the “mutt” press conference at first glance could be a moment of ascendant hybridity, a rejection of assimilation and purity projects, no longer tying the identity of the nation to homogeneity.

But Obama’s use of “mutt”—particularly within the context of discussing “pure breeds” versus canines without official provenance—reveals the continued, stubborn conflation of race and blood, reifying pure categories even as it celebrates positive outcomes of hybridization. Although Obama’s tongue may have been firmly planted in cheek, does everyone get the joke? It becomes clearer each day that his mutt identity evokes anything but humor from other folks, who see him as a half-bred abomination (Obamanation, anyone?).

Hybridity offers potential to subvert dominant narratives of purity, but these opportunities are neither guaranteed nor the only possibilities that may emerge. Garcia Cancelini sees hybridity as the liminal space where negotiation and struggle occur, and oh, what struggles we are seeing as members of the media, the government, and the public render their own responses to the Age of Obama, an allegedly postracial, postfeminist, post-Marxist, postculture wars time of bliss. These responses come so fast and so furious these days I keep rewriting this introductory essay, inserting newer references to outrageous outbursts and expressions of bigotry, the bigotry that we were supposed to have overcome on November 4, 2008…

Read the entire article here.

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Book Review: Dispatches from the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-05-26 02:53Z by Steven

Book Review: Dispatches from the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America

Hot Topics in Journalism and Mass Communication
2010-05-19

Queenie A. Byars, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Dispatches from the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America. Catherine R. Squires. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007.

When Dispatches from the Color Line was published, Barack Obama was still  the junior senator from Illinois and fresh from a rousing keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Fast forward to 2009 and President Barack Obama has jokingly compared his multiracial identity to that of a mixed-breed dog. Obama’s joking aside, the October 2009 case of a Louisiana justice of the peace refusing to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple is no laughing matter, and underscores the value of this book.

Catherine R. Squires is the Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality at the University of Minnesota. Her scholarly work in Dispatches from the Color Line offers serious discourse on the media’s role in framing the identity of multiracial people. She uses case study analysis to examine this issue…

Read the entire review here.

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The Politics of Biracialism [Issue]

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-02-01 18:54Z by Steven

The Politics of Biracialism [Issue]

The Black Scholar
Journal of Black Studies and Research
Fall 2009 (2009-09-22)
Volume 39, No. 3/4

Guest Editors:

Laura Chrisman, Professor of English
University of Washington

Habiba Ibrahim, Assistant Professor of English
University of Washington

Ralina Joseph, Assistant Professor of Communications
University of Washington

Why a biracial issue, and why now? As black Americans we have mixed ancestry; one might ask what is gained by giving this obvious fact the attention of a special issue. Rather than focus on this broad history, however, we instead highlight here the situations of first-generation biracial black people. Perhaps this does not simplify matters. Foregrounding their specific experiences, identities, and concerns may stir up the anger of those who feel judged “not black enough” and the anger of those who feel betrayed and devalued by self-identifying biracial individuals. The politics of biracialism, seen this way, are individualistic, diminishing our community’s cohesion. Yet we feel that the time is right for an exploration of the topic. Biracial or multiracial studies is fast-growing and itself extremely varied in its methods, disciplines, and orientation. Acknowledging the important and interesting work that has been produced in the last two decades, we provide a forum for such work. Another factor in our choice of topic is the emergence, in 2008, of Obama as a presidential candidate. Both his blackness and his first generation biracialism have prompted new consideration, within black communities and within the U.S. population as a whole, of the operations and meanings of race, nation, family and community within the U.S.A. This gives us additional incentive to explore biracialism in the present moment. Our moment differs from the fraught late 1990s when the multiracial social movement campaigned for recognition in the 2000 Census, and was opposed by influential black voices. The present adds some confidence and optimism: to profile biracialism now, we suggest, is not to jeopardize black collectivity so much as it is to recognize and join the healthy debates that are flourishing within and beyond black studies…

Table of Contents

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Dispatches from the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America

Posted in Books, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-12-14 18:52Z by Steven

Dispatches from the Color Line: The Press and Multiracial America

State University of New York Press
July 2007
295 pages
Hardcover ISBN10: 0-7914-7099-7; ISBN13: 978-0-7914-7099-2
Paperback ISBN10: 0-7914-7100-4; ISBN13: 978-0-7914-7100-5

Catherine R. Squires, Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality
University of Minnesota

Explores contemporary news media coverage of multiracial people and identities.

When modern news media choose to focus attention on people of multiracial descent, how does this fit with broader contemporary and historical racial discourses? Do these news narratives complicate common understandings of race and race relations? Dispatches from the Color Line explores these issues by examining contemporary news media coverage of multiracial people and identities. Catherine R. Squires looks at how journalists utilize information from many sources—including politicians, bureaucrats, activists, scholars, demographers, and marketers—to link multiracial identity to particular racial norms, policy preferences, and cultural trends. She considers individuals who were accused (rightly or wrongly) of misrepresenting their racial identity to the public for personal gain, and also compares the new racial categories of Census 2000 as reported in Black owned, Asian American owned, and mainstream newspapers. These comparisons reveal how a new racial group is framed in mass media, and how different media sources reinforce or challenge long-standing assumptions about racial identity and belonging in the United States.

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