It’s her Ferguson — and it’s not all black and white

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-17 16:25Z by Steven

It’s her Ferguson — and it’s not all black and white

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-11-17

Moni Basu

Ferguson, Missouri (CNN) — Stefannie Wheat carried a yard sign all the way from her Midwestern town to the nation’s capital. She visited the White House and tucked it into the guard rail.

“I Love Ferguson,” it said.

It was mid-October and her beloved city turned restive after the police shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown. Businesses were boarded up and losing money, protests had on occasion turned violent and anxiety had spread through the city of 22,000 people northwest of St. Louis.

Ferguson, the quiet community she chose to make home, had become synonymous with racism, injustice and police brutality. Wheat wanted to scream.

Her Ferguson was not what it had become in the headlines.

For this 45-year-old white woman, things were far more complex than they appeared in the news. The world that she, like many others, saw as black and white had morphed into myriad shades of gray over the years.

She has been married to Ken, who is black, for almost two decades. She adopted Christopher, a black child from a foster home. In eight years, he will turn 18, Brown’s age at the time of his death, and embark on life in a world she knows is still full of hate…

Read the entire article here.

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Am I ‘black enough’?

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-06 01:41Z by Steven

Am I ‘black enough’?

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-10-27

Gene Seymour

Editor’s note: Gene Seymour is a film critic who has written about music, movies and culture for The New York Times, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

(CNN) — I am black, though for most of my life, I’ve heard from various people that I wasn’t.

From children with skin the same color as mine saying that my normal speaking voice was somehow faked and that I spoke and therefore acted “like a white man”; from a black woman who berated me for listening to the Beatles in my car because, in her words, their music “wasn’t yours”; from strangers and would-be acquaintances of varied races over several decades who openly wondered if I was something other than African-American because of an eclectic range of interests (Jewish novelists, New Wave French movies, Wallace Stevens’ poetry, etc.) that didn’t quite jibe with whatever was expected from African-Americans.

There was even a liberal white teacher in my high school who suggested to me, straight-faced and with the very best of intentions, that if I was feeling out of place among my fellow black students I should just spend more time around what was then called “the ghetto” and learn how to speak as they would prefer; maybe even to adopt their speech as my own, so as to ….I don’t remember the exact words, but I’m guessing it was to better embody whatever her idea of legitimate blackness was back in the mid-60s.

If you came of age in mid- to late-20th century America when the civil rights movement gave way to growing consciousness of, and pride in being of African descent, the charge from within the black community that you were Not Black Enough was almost as wounding, even debilitating, as a racial epithet from a white person.

Apparently, you can’t even win a Super Bowl as a black quarterback without somebody slurring your authenticity. There were reports swirling around the Internet last week that Russell Wilson, signal caller for the defending NFL champion Seattle Seahawks, was being accused by some of his black teammates of being Not Black Enough. “I don’t even know what that means,” Wilson, who has mixed-race parentage, told a press conference yesterday after his team rallied from a two-week losing streak to beat the Carolina Panthers

…This fall, what was once a mostly insular discourse among black folks has gone even more public through two cozily familiar entertainment genres: the family sitcom and the campus comedy.

The latter, “Dear White People” is writer-director Justin Simien’s Sundance Film Festival sensation about culture clashes between white and black students (and among black students themselves) at a mythical Ivy League college. There’s a black Big Man On Campus named (what else) Troy, who besides being the son of the dean of students is dating the daughter of the white university president. There’s also a gay nerd-outcast named Lionel, who wears a retrograde Afro hairstyle so big as to be compared to a weather system, listens to Mumford & Sons, loves Robert Altman movies and, as he puts it, “isn’t black enough” for either the black or the white students.

The most radical character is a mixed-race young woman named Sam White, a rabble-rousing radio jock and aspiring filmmaker whose acerbically funny barbs aimed at genteel racial stereotyping at mythical Winchester University sets off a nationalist insurgency among the black students. Yet, as with Lionel, she carries a portfolio of seeming contradictions, such as a white lover and a preference for Ingmar Bergman’s movies over Spike Lee’s

Read the entire article here.

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How Ferguson could be America’s future

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-08-26 02:12Z by Steven

How Ferguson could be America’s future

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-08-23

John Blake

(CNN) — The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have been described as a mirror into contemporary America, but they are also something else: A crystal ball.

Look past the headlines — the debates over race and police militarization that have surfaced after the killing of an unarmed black youth by a white police officer — and one can glimpse America’s future, some historians and political scientists say.

No one is talking about an impending race war or a police state, but something more subtle. Unless Americans re-examine some assumptions they’ve made about themselves, they argue, Ferguson could be the future.

Assumption No. 1: Tiger Woods is going to save us

It’s called the “browning of America.” Google the phrase and you’ll get 18 million hits. By 2050, most of the nation’s citizens are expected to be people of color, according to the Pew Research Center.

Dig beneath the Google links and one can detect an emerging assumption: Racial flashpoints like Ferguson will fade in the future because no single race will be dominant. You could call it the Tiger Woods effect. The New American will claim multiple racial origins like Woods, the pro golfer. Demographic change will accomplish what a thousand national conversations on race could never do: lessen the sting of racial conflict.

A dramatic increase in interracial marriages will change the racial landscape as more people cross racial and ethnic lines to marry. But that change won’t be a cure-all, says Rory Kramer, a sociology and criminology professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

He says racial progress is not inevitable with the browning of America.

“I don’t want to deny the optimism,” Kramer says. “I deny the assumption that it will happen without effort.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Opinion: Supreme Court ruling upholds America’s mixed view

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-25 07:16Z by Steven

Opinion: Supreme Court ruling upholds America’s mixed view

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-04-24

Martha S. Jones, Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Associate Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies
University of Michigan

(CNN) — I didn’t expect to find the specter of the mixed-race person making an appearance in Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision that upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action.

But there it was.

In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the plurality, cast doubt upon the court’s capacity to deliberate over race cases — and mixed-raced people were said to be the culprits.

Kennedy wrote that “not all individuals of the same race think alike.” Fair enough. But then he went on to suggest that mixed-race people confound the court’s capacity to “define individuals according to race.”

He continued (PDF), “In a society in which those lines are becoming more blurred, the attempt to define race-based categories also raises serious questions of its own.”

When we blur the lines, as mixed-race people like me are said to do, are we really undermining the court’s capacity to determine questions about the equal protection of the laws?

Kennedy’s view feels familiar: There is nothing new about regarding mixed-race people as a problem in the United States.

We can trace this idea to the earliest lawmaking in British colonial America. The first laws to regulate race were those that prohibited sex and marriage across the color line…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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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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