What’s in a name? ‘Mixed,’ ‘biracial,’ ‘black’

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-02-24 20:24Z by Steven

What’s in a name? ‘Mixed,’ ‘biracial,’ ‘black’

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-02-19

Martha S. Jones, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Associate Professor of History
University of Michigan

(CNN) — When the census listed Negro as a race option in 2010, a controversy erupted.

My students at the University of Michigan were eager to denounce the term’s use: “Negro? It has to go!”

To their ears, “Negro” was derogatory, too close in tone to the other, more infamous n-word. I played devil’s advocate, to test their thinking: “But some black elders still self-identify as Negroes.” “It’s preferable to its predecessor, colored.”

“Don’t some of you belong to the National Council of Negro Women chapter?”

I could not shake their thought.

I was confronting a generational divide. For my grandmother, “Negro” was a term of respect. To my students, it was an epithet…

…My CNN essay “Biracial and also black” generated a debate about the words we use to describe African-Americans. I called myself mixed-race, a phrase that includes identities rooted in multiple races.

Another term, biracial, some readers pointed out, assumes one identity borne out of two. It is, perhaps, too narrow for a discussion about identity in the 21st century.

Some readers also rejected the phrase “African-American,” deeming it awkward and inaccurate. Renee wrote: “We are not from Africa, I was born here in the U.S. I don’t know anyone there, can’t even say my ancestors are from there.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The ‘white’ student who integrated Ole Miss

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-02-13 18:25Z by Steven

The ‘white’ student who integrated Ole Miss

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-02-05

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of American History
Stanford University

(CNN) — When Harry S. Murphy arrived at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1945, he was nervous. He landed at Ole Miss by way of the Navy’s V-12 program, a wartime measure that allowed young men to take college classes, receive naval training and preparation to become officers.

Murphy was black, but university officials did not know that. He had a white complexion and wavy brown hair. A military official checked the “W” box for white when Murphy enlisted in the Navy.

This official unwittingly set Murphy on an entirely new path. Murphy explained that he had no intention to “pass,” and once at Ole Miss in Oxford, no one inquired about his race.

“I guess they just assumed I was white,” Murphy said.

If no one asked, why tell?

Passing—the choice to leave behind a black racial identity and present oneself as white—allowed many African-Americans to navigate a racist society. In today’s multiracial America, the decision to pass may seem unnecessary and unwarranted.

But historically, erasing one’s black identity was one of a limited number of avenues available to light-skinned African-Americans to secure a better life in the era of legalized segregation.

Those who passed often reaped financial rewards, gained social privileges and enjoyed the fun of “getting over” by playing a practical joke on unsuspecting whites and winning a clandestine war against Jim Crow America…

Read the entire article here.

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Biracial, and also black

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-02-13 02:54Z by Steven

Biracial, and also black

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-02-12

Martha S. Jones, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Associate Professor of History
University of Michigan

(CNN) — My winter 2010 seminar began the way I start every class. I made introductory remarks about themes and requirements for my course on the history of race, law and marriage in the United States.

“Now,” I prompted, “let’s go around. Tell us about yourself and why you chose this course.”

This introduction was routine. But what I heard was anything but the norm: “My mother is black and my father is white.” “I’m in an interracial relationship.”

Ordinarily, I am silent, listening and taking notes. But by the time I heard a third student say “I am mixed-race, from a mixed race family,” I had set down my notebook and was perched at the edge of my seat.

“Me, too,” I heard myself say. And with that, I knew that the class would be anything but routine. Until that moment, I had always told a neater story about my identity. I was, simply put, black. And about my mother being white? That had been irrelevant for me and my “one drop rule” generation.

My students had another perspective…

Read the entire article here.

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Soledad O’Brien Explores Racial and Ethnic Identity in Provocative Black in America

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2013-11-12 02:16Z by Steven

Soledad O’Brien Explores Racial and Ethnic Identity in Provocative Black in America

CNN Press Room
Cable News Network (CNN)
2012-12-04

Who is Black in America? Debuts Sunday, Dec. 9 at 8:00 p.m. & 11:00p.m. ET & PT
U.S. Encore: Sunday, January 27, 2013,  20:00 p.m. ET, 23:00 p.m ET, and Monday, 02:00 ET
International Debut on CNN International: Sunday, January 13, 02:00Z and 10:00Z (Saturday, January 12, 21:00 EST and Sunday, January 13, 05:00 EST). View regional schedules here.

“I don’t really feel Black,” says 17-year-old Nayo Jones. Her mother is Black; she was raised apart from her by her White father, and she identifies herself as biracial. “I was raised up with White people, White music, White food so it’s not something I know,” she says in a new documentary that explores the sensitive concepts of race, cultural identity, and skin tone.

For the fifth installment of her groundbreaking Black in America series, CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien reports for Who is Black in America? The documentary debuts Sunday, December 09 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET & PT and replays on Saturday, December 15 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET & PT.

Is Jones Black? Is Blackness based upon skin color or other factors? The 2010 U.S. Census found 15 percent of new marriages are interracial, a figure that is twice what was reported in 1980. One in seven American newborns were of mixed race in 2010, representing an increase of two percent from the 2000 U.S. Census. Within this context, O’Brien examines how much regarding race and identity are personal choices vs. reflections of an external social construct.

Tim Wise, an author and anti-racism activist believes in self identification, but says, in practice, society often will remind biracial people like Jones of their Blackness, “in a million subtle ways,” he says in the documentary.

As the hour unfolds, O’Brien follows Jones, and her best friend and fellow high school student Becca Khalil, as they take part in a spoken word workshop led by the Philadelphia-based poet, Perry “Vision” DiVirgilio.
 
Vision, who is biracial, says he never felt quite White or Black enough to fit in with friends who had parents of one race.  Vision identifies as Black, and says that identity is more than skin – that identity encompasses experiences and struggles.  Through his workshop, he encourages young people to think, talk, and write about identity, as well as the concept of colorism, which he blames for his early struggles with self-esteem and identity.
 
“Colorism is a system in which light skin is more valued than dark skin,” says Drexel University’s assistant teaching professor for Africana studies, Yaba Blay.  Blay tells O’Brien that, as a young African-American woman growing up in New Orleans, she felt discriminated against – often by lighter skinned African Americans – due to her dark skin tone.
 
Blay’s work focuses on how prejudice related to skin tone can confuse and negatively impact identity and self esteem.  She aims to help others also develop positive images of cultural identity – for African Americans of all shades.
 
Often complicating concepts of identity beyond multiracial heritage is skin tone.  Khalil, who has light-colored skin and two parents who are Egyptian in origin, identifies herself as African American.  She feels contemporaries dismiss her African American identity due to her light skin tone.  She says in the documentary that she wishes she had darker skin.
 
Writer, producer, and image activist, Michaela Angela Davis says she accepts that race is a social construct, but she feels it is important for people to name and claim their own racial identity: “You are who you say that you are,” she says in the documentary…

Read the entire press release here.

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Overseas adoptions rise — for black American children

Posted in Articles, Europe, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2013-09-19 22:12Z by Steven

Overseas adoptions rise — for black American children

Cable News Network (CNN)
2013-09-17

Sophie Brown

Editor’s note: In this series, CNN investigates international adoption, hearing from families, children and key experts on its decline, and whether the trend could — or should — be reversed.

(CNN) — Elisa van Meurs grew up with a Polish au pair, speaks fluent Dutch and English and loves horseback riding — her favorite horse is called Kiki but she also rides Pippi Longstocking, James Bond, and Robin Hood.

She plays tennis and ice hockey, and in the summer likes visiting her grandmother in the Swiss Alps.

“It’s really nice to go there because you can walk in the mountains and you can mountain bike … you can see Edelweiss sometimes,” said the 13-year-old, referring to the famous mountain flower that blooms above the tree line.

It’s a privileged life unlike that of her birth mother, a woman of African American descent from Indianapolis who had her first child at age 15. Her American family is “really nice but they don’t have a lot of money to do stuff,” said Elisa, who met her birth mother, and two siblings in 2011. “They were not so rich.”…

Escape from racism

When Susan, a Florida resident, chose to place her son for adoption in 2006, the social worker gave her three binders with information about three prospective families. But she only needed to see the first binder of a couple from the Netherlands to make her decision. “If my mother had lived, she’d look just like (the prospective Dutch mother),” recalled the 37 year old, who asked that her last name not be used. Her own mother died when she was two months old.

Susan also wanted her son to grow up far away from the life she knew. She was a 30-year-old prostitute addicted to crack beginning a prison sentence when she learned she was pregnant. She did not know whether the child’s father was a man who raped her “for hours” or a drug dealer whom she “had done something with” one time, she said. But both men were African American, and she believed the child would face discrimination growing up in the United States.

“There’s too much prejudice over here. The white people are going to hate him because he’s half black, and the majority of black people are going to hate on him because he’s half white,” said Susan, who is Caucasian. “And then he’ll have to do extra things to prove what kind of a Negro he is, and extra things to prove what kind of a honky he is and I don’t want that. I did not want that for my kid.”

Even her own daughter, then aged 11, said “she would never accept that n***** child.”

Susan is not alone, says Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute and author of “Adoption Nation.” Many birth mothers have a perception that their black or mixed-race children will not face the same race issues in the Netherlands as in the United States.

“In the United States, as much as Americans want to believe it’s not true, we are still a country where there is a least some degree of racial prejudice. The birth mothers’ perception of Holland, in particular, was that the same was not true in Holland. There’s that feeling that maybe we can escape those issues if (the child is) somewhere else.”…

Read the entire article here.

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What Obama must say to African-American grads

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-05-19 03:16Z by Steven

What Obama must say to African-American grads

CNN Opinion
Cable News Network
2013-05-18

Paul Butler, Professor of Law
Georgetown University

—”My brothers.”

That is how President Obama should begin one of the most significant speeches of his presidency: the commencement address at Morehouse College this Sunday. Addressing the historically black all male institution gives Obama an opportunity to rectify his strategic neglect of African-Americans. In this high-profile talk to his own demographic, the president has some explaining to do.

Obama’s identity as a black man is usually communicated subliminally, with the swag in his walk, the basketball court on the East Lawn, the sexy glances at the first lady, his overall cool. Now, however, comes the time to be explicit: to speak out loud his affiliation, his fraternal pride and concern. That’s the good work that calling us “brothers” would do…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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Don Lemon: It only takes one drop

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2013-04-02 22:32Z by Steven

Don Lemon: It only takes one drop

Cable News Network (CNN)
In America: You define America. What defines you?
2012-01-15

Don Lemon, Anchor
CNN Newsroom

This piece is part of a three-part series tied to the (1)ne Drop Project.

(CNN) – For years, the woman on the left in the photograph below could not be friendly to her own husband in public. She would pretend she didn’t know him or tell people he was her driver. She didn’t want him to be beaten in public as he had many times before.

She learned that particular survival technique from the woman in the photograph on the right, her mother and my grandmother, who had to use it from the 1930s until my grandfather died in the 1960s. Both women were often mistaken for white. And for whatever privileges my aunt and grandmother might have received for their light skin, their husbands paid for it by beatings or threats from white men. One handed-down family story that sticks with me is how my uncle was lucky to have survived a savage throttling in the 1950s after exiting a ferry crossing the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to Port Allen. Apparently, he and my aunt had let down their guard. They never did it again.

Heck, as a child, I wasn’t even sure about my grandmother or my aunt. “Is Aunt-ee Lacy white?” I’d ask. “Lacy’s black,” an adult would say. Of course the reply was followed by a big laugh and a phrase I’d never forget: “It only takes one drop.” Meaning it only takes one drop of “Negro” blood to make you black

Read the entire article here and watch a interview with (1)ne Drop Project author Dr. Yaba Blay here.

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CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Her Entrepreneurial TV Future

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-03-25 02:00Z by Steven

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Her Entrepreneurial TV Future

Bloomberg Businessweek
2013-03-07

Soledad O’Brien as told to Diane Brady

I never really hesitated about going to Starting Point [which premiered on Jan. 2, 2012]. I thought there was an opportunity to get beyond the platitudes of “Yes, Medicare! No, Medicare!” and actually look at the Congressional Budget Office report. When I left American Morning in 2007, I’d focused on doing documentaries. But I thought Starting Point was a great opportunity to be involved in the zeitgeist.

The show was able to grow, but it takes time. I don’t know that an aggressive interview style was not good for our morning show, which is what some people said. It takes time to build an audience. When Jeff Zucker [CNN’s new president, above] started last month, he had a different vision. He was coming in to make changes across the board that, frankly, CNN really needs. Part of that vision was that I wouldn’t be on the morning show. Once I knew what he wanted, I focused on how I could do what I enjoy most.

We struck an unusual deal. I’ll get to leave CNN with my catalog and documentaries. We were able to create a brand at CNN—Black in America—that I now own. I can take that brand and extend it in any way I want. You have Netflix and all these channels that are looking for interesting and different ways to tell stories. To have ownership of Black in America and Latino in America is hugely important…

Read the entire article here.

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Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Media Archive, United States on 2013-03-02 04:14Z by Steven

Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America

In America: You define America. What defines you?
Cable News Network (CNN)
2013-02-15

Editor’s note: CNN’s Moni Basu, a Bengali immigrant, was born in Kolkata, India.

Moni Basu

(CNN) – In the next few weeks, Fatima Shaik, an African-American, Christian woman, will travel “home” from New York to Kolkata, India.

It will be a journey steeped in a history that has remained unknown until the publication last month of a revelatory book by Vivek Bald. And it will be a journey of contemplation as Shaik, 60, meets for the first time ancestors with whom she has little in common.

“I want to go back because I want to find some sort of closure for my family, said Shaik, an author and scholar of the Afro-Creole experience.

That Americans like Shaik, who identify as black, are linked by blood to a people on the Indian subcontinent seems, at first, improbable.

South Asian immigration boomed in this country after the passage of landmark immigration legislation in 1965. But long before that, there were smaller waves of new Americans who hailed from India under the British Empire.

The first group, to which Shaik’s grandfather, Shaik Mohamed Musa, belonged, consisted of peddlers who came to these shores in the 1890s, according to Bald. They sold embroidered silks and cottons and other “exotic” wares from the East on the boardwalks of Asbury Park and Atlantic City, New Jersey. They eventually made their way south to cities like New Orleans and Atlanta and even farther to Central America.

The second wave came in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were seamen, some merchant marines.

Most were Muslim men from what was then the Indian province of Bengal and in many ways, they were the opposite of the stereotype of today’s well-heeled, highly educated South Asians.

South Asian immigration was illegal then – the 1917 Immigration Act barred all idiots, imbeciles, criminals and people from the “Asiatic Barred Zone.”

The Bengalis got off ships with little to their name.

They were mostly illiterate and worked as cooks, dishwashers, merchants, subway laborers. In New York, they gradually formed a small community of sorts in Spanish Harlem. They occupied apartments and tenement housing on streets in the 100s. They worked hard.

And they did all they could do to become American in a nation of segregation and prejudice.

A huge part of that meant marrying Latino and African-American women—there were no Bengali women around—and letting go of the world they left behind.

Unlike other immigrants of the time, they didn’t settle in their own enclaves. Rather, they began life anew in established neighborhoods of color: Harlem, West Baltimore and in New Orleans, Tremé.

By doing so, they also became a part of black and Latino heritage in America…

Read the entire article and view the photograph of “Bengalis and their Puerto Rican and African-American wives at a 1952 banquet at New York’s Pakistan League of America” here.

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CNN Joins Forces with Soledad O’Brien’s New Production Company

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2013-02-22 05:51Z by Steven

CNN Joins Forces with Soledad O’Brien’s New Production Company

Cable News Network (CNN)
2012-02-21

Starfish Media Group Will Produce Specials and Documentaries for CNN
 
CNN is entering into a production and distribution agreement with critically-acclaimed journalist Soledad O’Brien, whose new production company will produce long-form programming specials for the network it was announced today by Jeff Zucker, president CNN Worldwide. O’Brien’s company, which will launch in June, will produce three long-form programming specials for CNN in 2014. Those specials will include one of the network’s most successful franchises, Black in America. O’Brien’s new production company, Starfish Media Group, in conjunction with CNN, will act as the exclusive worldwide distributor of previous documentaries featuring O’Brien. She will also host the 2013 CNN Black in America documentary, which will air later this year.

“We greatly value Soledad’s experience, and her first-rate storytelling will continue to be an asset to CNN,” said Zucker. “Documentaries and long-form story telling are important to our brand and we’re anticipating more of what we’ve come to expect from her – riveting content.”…

Read the entire press release here.

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