Raven-Symoné, Oprah, and What it Means to be (African) American

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-15 00:50Z by Steven

Raven-Symoné, Oprah, and What it Means to be (African) American

The Huffington Post
Black Voices
2014-10-13

A. B. Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Last week entertainer Raven-Symoné appeared on Oprah: Where Are They Now? and proudly stated that she was in “an amazing, happy relationship” with a woman, yet what she followed up with turned out to be more surprising for some. After telling Oprah that she did not want to be labeled “gay” yet simply as “a human who loves humans,” Raven continued: “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African American; I’m an American.”

As Oprah shook her head, she responded, “Oh girl, don’t set up the Twitter on fire.” She then threw up her hands and yelled jokingly, “Stop, stop, stop the tape right now!” Twitter and the blogosphere certainly did blow up in response to Raven’s remarks, which many felt were blasphemous, not regarding her sexual orientation, but because she rejected being identified as African American.

Everyone has the right to identify as they please, and if she wants to, Raven-Symoné can certainly refuse labels surrounding her sexuality and ethnoracial background. However, she didn’t dodge all labels as rigorously as she claimed, for Raven still enthusiastically and without hesitation embraced the national label of “American.”

What might be more problematic is that Raven and Oprah both came to agreement on the point that “America” is supposed to be a “melting pot.” While their version of the “melting pot” may be that everyone is equally included in the melding of cultures that make up the United States, this has not been the case in the past and is still not the case today. (If we truly considered every culture as equal contributors to the U.S. “melting pot” then why in 2014 do we still have a sports team called Redskins and continue to celebrate Columbus Day as a national holiday?)

Oprah and Raven-Symoné are two models of excellence who deserve recognition for their achievements in media, entertainment, and life. Still, their recent conversation concerning ethnoracial identity and what it means to be “American” may have been misdirected in places and requires further discussion. These revealing comments provide us with a place for further conversation as we reflect on our views concerning the important topics of race, culture, and identity…

…While Raven never expected her personal comments would “spark such emotion in people,” those claiming mixed descent need to understand that speaking openly about their blended heritage can still be controversial, especially when they are perceived to be favoring their mixture over an identity of color.

When Raven-Symoné said, “I have lots of things running through my veins” she was being honest about her ancestry further back on her family tree. Still, some people of mixed heritage have used statements like these to distance themselves from stigmas associated with “blackness.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

The Privilege of White Hispanic: Leaving Out the Rest

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-09-21 17:32Z by Steven

The Privilege of White Hispanic: Leaving Out the Rest

Latino Voices
The Huffington Post
2014-09-09

César Vargas, Writer, director, activist

People talk so much about Latinos denying their Blackness, but bring up the term “white Latino” and you will see an extreme reaction, visceral attack from white Latinos themselves. Tactics such as (and I’m pretty sure you’ve read this a lot from racist Americans): Stop talking about race, Latinos aren’t racist, white and Black Latinos are still treated the same, your language is divisive. They love to pretend they don’t enjoy privileges afforded to them when they identify as Latino or Hispanic.

Embracing Latino or Hispanic has not benefitted Indigenous folks, Chicanos or Afro-Latinos because it has been robbed from the rest of us by white Latinos for their own agenda: money and political powers with brands, sponsors, the government, publications, grants, you name it.

We are here to demand to be included in Latinoness and not just with a label so we can be targeted for political and monetary gain: with positions in the government, with positions as brand ambassadors, with positions in both the film industry and TV networks. With jobs…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Light-Skinned Latinos Tend To Vote More Republican. Be Careful How You Interpret That.

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-09-19 18:14Z by Steven

Light-Skinned Latinos Tend To Vote More Republican. Be Careful How You Interpret That.

Latino Voices
The Huffington Post
2014-09-18

Roque Planas, Editor

Lighter-skinned Latinos are more likely to vote Republican, according to polling data analyzed by the Washington Post.

The data highlights rarely recognized racial divisions within the Latino community that have perplexed the U.S. Census Bureau and tripped up mass media. But don’t expect it to change too much about the way you understand the Latino vote.

Writing for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog on Wednesday, professor Spencer Piston analyzed a sample of Latino citizens interviewed for the 2012 American National Election Studies. Interviewers measured the respondents’ skin color.

…The predictions Piston makes based on the data, however, are questionable. He writes that the analysis should make us rethink projections suggesting that the growth of the Latino electorate will dilute the Republican vote, which are based on the premise that Latinos tend to vote Democrat. …

…As a multiracial ethnicity, Latinos view race differently than non-Latinos because so many Hispanics come from a mixed-race background. While racial division and discrimination are undoubtedly part of the Latino experience, Latinos have less fixed ideas about race than non-Latino Americans. Our communities, our social groups and our families are racially mixed in a way that doesn’t exist to the same degree among non-Hispanic white and black Americans. …

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Black In The Dominican Republic: Denying Blackness

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Social Science, Videos on 2014-06-11 20:11Z by Steven

Black In The Dominican Republic: Denying Blackness

HuffPost Live
The Huffington Post
2014-06-10

Marc Lamont Hill, Host

In Latin America and Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic many deny being of African decent, despite 90 percent of the population possessing black ancestry. Where has the blackness gone in the region?

Guests:

  • Biany Perez (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Graduate Student at Bryn Mawr College
  • Christopher Pimentel (New York , New York) Finance Student at Baruch College
  • Robin Derby (Los Angeles, California) Associate Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Kimberly Eison Simmons (Columbia, South Carolina) Associate Professor, Anthropology and African American Studies, University of South Carolina
  • Silvio Torres-Saillant (Syracuse, New York) Professor of English, Syracuse University

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are Latinos Really Turning White?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-06-05 14:50Z by Steven

Are Latinos Really Turning White?

Latino Voices
The Huffington Post
2014-05-29

Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies
University of Southern California

Writing for The New York Times, Nate Cohn recently reported that more Hispanics are identifying as white. The piece—which even includes a cute graphic in which a (presumably Latino) man steps from one square to another, miraculously becomes white, and then rises up to the sky—suggests that this may be “new evidence consistent with the theory that Hispanics may assimilate as white Americans, like the Italians or Irish….”

That’s interesting (and colorful), to be sure. But as I often tell my data staff, when you discover a surprising fact, you could be on to something—but you could also just be wrong.

Cohn’s analysis is actually a few steps removed, which may explain part of the problem. He bases his discussion on a summary offered by the Pew Research Center, which was in turn reporting on a presentation given at the annual meetings of the Population Association of America.

The underlying research is novel in several ways, one of which is that it links individual answers on the 2000 Census with the answers those same individuals gave when administered the Census in 2010.

It turns out that 2.5 million Americans who marked Hispanic and “some other race” in 2000 indicated that they were Hispanic and white a decade later; while another 1.3 million people flipped the other way, it’s still a large net gain—about 3.5 percent of the Latino population in the year 2000.

So what happened? Perhaps assimilation is indeed alive and well? Maybe the racial threats posed by anti-immigrant rhetoric led some Hispanics to become defensively white? Maybe it’s young people who became adults over the course of the decade and finally got a chance to choose their identity rather than have it chosen by the head of their household?

Or maybe the question changed…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Stunning Self-Portraits Make You Think Twice About Interracial Identity In South America

Posted in Articles, Arts, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2014-04-29 16:48Z by Steven

Stunning Self-Portraits Make You Think Twice About Interracial Identity In South America

The Huffington Post
2014-04-25

Katherine Brooks, Arts & Culture Editor

Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão has been exploring themes of interracial identity through an unlikely medium—self-portraits. To confront and challenge concepts like colonialism and miscegenation in her home country, she turns her own visage into a canvas and translates the many skin colors that populate Brazil into a palette of paint. The result, “Polvo,” presents racial diversity through the face of one woman, daring the viewer to lose themselves in her nebulous color wheels.

Varejão sought inspiration from the 17th and 18th century practice of Spanish casta paintings, portraits that aimed to document the variety of skin colors in Latin America and reframe them in ways that sliced and diced mixed-race ethnicities into far more than black and white. “Mixing was the norm,” The Economist asserted in 2012, referencing the interracial mixing that occurred even during Brazil’s days of slavery. “The result is a spectrum of skin colour rather than a dichotomy.”

Defining the spectrum was a Euro-centric obsession, one that resulted in an elaborate system of castes—white Spanish at one end and those of African or indigenous descent at the other—that had social, cultural and economic implications. The lighter skinned individuals existed at the top of the socio-economic pyramid, with better jobs and higher standards of living, while their darker skinned counterparts sank to the bottom.

The legacy of this classification persists in Brazil, a country seen less as a “racial democracy” and more as a purveyor of segregation. And interracial identity remains a potent issue, particularly since black and mixed-race people officially outnumber white citizens, according to a 2010 census. “Brazil is a country where non-whites now make up a majority of the population,” NPR’s Melissa Block reiterated in a 2013 story. “It’s one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world; home to 97 million African descendants—the largest number of blacks outside Africa…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Stephen Colbert Is Confused About G. K. Butterfield’s Race In Latest ‘Better Know A District’

Posted in Interviews, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Videos on 2014-03-25 20:33Z by Steven

Stephen Colbert Is Confused About G. K. Butterfield’s Race In Latest ‘Better Know A District’

The Huffington Post
2014-03-25

Carol Hartsell, Senior Comedy Editor

Stephen Colbert unveiled a new edition of “Better Know A District” on Monday’s show, and it was chock-full of racial misunderstandings, confusing questions and barbecue taste tests… like all of his best segments, really.

Sitting down with North Carolina Representative G. K. Butterfield, things got off to an awkward start when Colbert was confused by the congressman’s race (Butterfield is the son of mixed-race parents and identifies as African-American). But once that was over, Colbert got right to the tough questions: why Butterfield is prejudiced against the 1% (the real minority in America) and why he wants to make six-year-olds pay more for cigarettes.

Watch the full segment above or here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Quadroons for Beginners: Discussing the Suppressed and Sexualized History of Free Women of Color with Author Emily Clark

Posted in Articles, History, Interviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-09-07 16:42Z by Steven

Quadroons for Beginners: Discussing the Suppressed and Sexualized History of Free Women of Color with Author Emily Clark

The Huffington Post
2013-09-04

Stacy Parker Le Melle, Workshop Director
Afghan Women’s Writing Project

“As a historian, I knew that mixed race women and interracial families were everywhere in America from its earliest days. And I knew that most of the free women of color in antebellum New Orleans bore no resemblance to the quadroons of myth.” —Dr. Emily Clark

As an American, I follow my roots like trails across the globe. My mother is from Kansas and is of German descent, and my deceased father was black with roots in North Carolina, and before then, Africa. Arguably you can trace all of us back to Africa. But my parents’ union created me: a black American woman, a woman of color, a mixed kid, a mulatta, maybe an Oreo, definitely a myriad of identities and categories to embrace or resist.

Living in Harlem, I see so many mixed marriages, mixed kids everyday all the time. Traveling the South, I see so many kids with the telltale curly locks. Growing up in Metro Detroit in the 80s, I knew there were other black & white mixes like me. I just didn’t know them. Only at college in Washington, DC, did I meet mixed girls and have them as friends. And not until my English, women’s studies, and African-American history courses did I learn any American history about women like me.

Before college, maybe I’d encounter a definition of “miscegenation” – that very special crime of racemixing in segregated America. And maybe an explanation of the “one drop rule” that went on to create the classifications of “mulatto” and “quadroon” and “octaroon“—your label dependent upon which fraction of African was in your genealogy. But that was it. In my high school American History texts, I don’t remember any acknowledgement of centuries of rape and consensual relationships between whites and blacks. None of my suburban history teachers lingered on the taboo. Maybe I didn’t either. When I think of the mania around racemixing, and of the cultural trope of the “tragic mulatta“—the woman doomed because she is too white for the blacks, too black for the whites—it was easy to assume that the history of mixed-race women in America was simple in its sadness and injustice.

Yet there is nothing simple about the American Quadroon. Once she was the picture of irresistible beauty, the symbol of a city thought of as irredeemably “other”, an earthbound goddess who conjured so much desire that white men made her concubines, and slavetraders scoured the states for enslaved girls that fit her description to fulfill buyer demand. That was the myth, the dominant story. But as Tulane historian Emily Clark writes in her richly-researched and compelling The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World (UNC Press), she was also a family-woman, marrying men of color, living the propriety dream in her New Orleans society. If her myth was simple in its power, her reality was rich and complicated—by no means a single story…

How do you define an “American Quadroon”?

Dr. Clark: There are really two versions. One is the virtually unknown historical reality, the married free women of color of New Orleans who were paragons of piety and respectability. The other is the more familiar mythic figure who took shape in the antebellum American imagination. If you asked a white nineteenth-century American what a quadroon was, they would answer that she was a light-skinned free woman of color who preferred being the mistress of a white man to marriage with a man who shared her racial ancestry. In order to ensnare white lovers who would provide for them, quadroons were supposedly schooled from girlhood by their mothers to be virtuosos in the erotic arts. When they came of age, their mothers put them on display at quadroon balls and negotiated a contract with a white lover to set the young woman up in a house and provide enough money to support her and any children born of the liaison. The arrangement usually ended in heartbreak for the quadroon when the lover left her to marry a white woman. If this sounds like a white male rape fantasy, that is exactly what it was. There is one other key characteristic of the mythic American Quadroon: she was to be found only in New Orleans…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

What the ‘Mixed Kids Are Always So Beautiful’ Meme Really Means

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-08-23 00:32Z by Steven

What the ‘Mixed Kids Are Always So Beautiful’ Meme Really Means

The Huffington Post
2013-08-22

Marcia Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Communications
University of Southern California, Annenberg

The New York Times’ Motherlode blog recently posted a thought-provoking article called, “Mixed Kids Are Always So Beautiful.” The author’s experiences as a parent to a racially-ambiguous mixed child are proof that beauty and race are concepts societies create that may not actually exist in nature. As a result, beauty and race are associated with and impacted by our experiences and perceptions related to class, immigration, gender, sexuality and marketing. Case in point: Since the Time magazine “New Eve” cover in the 1990s, multiracial individuals are more and more said to be the face of 21st century America and its evolved standard of beauty. But what’s less known is that even this image was altered to look less “Hispanic/Latino” (read: brown) and more “European” (read: white) after focus group testing.

The “mixed race faces are prettier” meme is related directly to hybrid vigor, the biological phenomenon that predicts that crossbreeding leads to offspring that are genetically fitter than their parents. Hybrid vigor makes mixed race people somehow biologically different and prettier than non-mixed (non-white) people by nature. Equally dangerous is the added effect that focusing on mixed-race offspring continues to make interracial relationships about sex and heterosexuality and to marginalize those who do not identify as heterosexuals and/or come from same-sex interracial families…

…My parents reminded us that real beauty is measured more accurately by intelligence, interests and healthy relationships rather than by a racially ambiguous appearance and others’ reactions to it. They also taught me not to “believe the (racist) hype” that mixed kids are more beautiful than anyone else…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Coming Out As Black

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-07 03:00Z by Steven

Coming Out As Black

The Blog
The Huffington Post
2013-05-24

Elaine Vilorio, High School Senior
Northern New Jersey

I’m Black. After many years in the closet, after many years of breathing that stale air of self-denial, I can finally say this.

Growing up, I dreaded the question “What are you?” I always proudly answered that I was Hispanic. In fact, I made it a point to emphasize my Hispanicity simply because I knew what was coming next. “I’m Hispanic; I speak Spanish; my parents come from Dominican Republic. I’m Hispanic. And, just to clarify, I’m Hispanic.” To this, the other person confessed: “Oh… I thought you were Black. You definitely look Black.” The problem was I perceived the identification of “Hispanic” outside the realm of Blackness; but then, I wasn’t the only one. Take note that the other person in my scenario thought the same thing. Right after my declaration of Hispanicity, he/she stripped away the “Black” label with the phrases “I thought” and “You definitely look.”

The conventional definition of “Black” completely leaves out Hispanics, and this is because the latter is ashamed of African ancestry. As a result of this shame, American society has excused Latinos from identifying themselves as Black or African American. I recently read Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s Black in Latin America, and I’m amazed at what I learned. Eleven million Africans survived the Middle Passage and came to the Western Hemisphere. Out of this almost unfathomable number, only 450,000 Africans came to the United States. Gates expresses the significance of these numbers nicely: “The ‘real’ African American experience…unfolded in places south… of Texas, south of California, in the Caribbean islands and throughout Latin America.” [1] Why, then, has the stereotypical Hispanic comprised mostly European and Indigenous features? Where did the Black go? It was buried under unofficial segregation, under whitening campaigns of populations and national histories, under racism…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,