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.

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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.

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

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, 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.

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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.

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Kiss Me, I’m 1/16 Irish: African-, Irish-, and the Hyphenated-Americans

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-18 02:56Z by Steven

Kiss Me, I’m 1/16 Irish: African-, Irish-, and the Hyphenated-Americans

The Huffington Post
2013-03-15

Theodore Johnson, Op-Ed Columnist, 2012 White House Fellow

Years ago, I spent Saint Patrick’s Day in an Irish pub singing ditties with a restaurant full of my newest friends—and left feeling a little green with envy. The Irish-American traditions and fare were in full swing and exposed me to a culture I’d never really considered while growing up in a sleepy North Carolina suburb. This year I find myself brewing a homemade dark beer and casually searching the Internet for “Kiss me, I’m 1/16 Irish” buttons. As an African-American, this feels a bit weird.

I’m pretty sure my Irish great-great grandfather would not be thrilled about this. A discreet encounter—either an isolated incident or part of an ongoing relationship, the family lore is unclear—led to the hazel-eyed and blonde-haired African-Americans present at my family cookouts today. It’s in moments like these that I wonder about the utility of what President Theodore Roosevelt once called “hyphenated Americanism.”

The plights of the Irish and blacks in America are extremely different, but share some similarities. In the 19th century, particularly after slavery, both were considered to be the lowest rungs of society. Irish were sometimes thought of as black people “turned inside out,” and blacks as “smoked Irish.” Historians have written that the indigent, chattel state of the two groups led to such a high number of interracial marriages that the term “mulatto’s” first official use was to record this phenomenon in the 1850 Census. In the earliest 20th century, the Irish and blacks all along the eastern seaboard continued to compete for work and live in close proximity, until the race divide became the chasm that even class could not bridge…

Read the entire article here.

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The Silly Debate Over Whether Obama is Black or Mixed-Race

Posted in Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-01-31 19:58Z by Steven

The Silly Debate Over Whether Obama is Black or Mixed-Race

The Huffington Post
2008-06-14

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Political Analyst and Social Issues Commentator

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gave the best answer to the question whether he’s black, mixed race or something in between. He recently told a Chicago fundraiser crowd that to some he wasn’t black enough, and he then promptly added that others say he might be too black. He’s right; the knock against him has either been that he is too black or not black enough, not that he is too mixed race or not mixed race enough. Despite his occasional references to his white mother and grandmother, Obama by his own admission has never seen himself as anything other than being black. He says that’s it been that way since he was 12. It’s that way for those whites who flatly say that they won’t vote for him because he’s black. His Democratic primary losses to Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky showed there are legions of white voters who feel that race does matter to them. Few have said that they oppose him because he’s mixed race.

Yet, the silly debate continues to rage over whether Obama is the black presidential candidate or the multi-racial candidate. The debate is even sillier when one considers that science has long since debunked the notion of a pure racial type. In America, race has never been a scientific or genealogical designation, but a political and social designation. Put bluntly, anyone with the faintest trace of African ancestry was and still is considered black, and treated accordingly. Their part-white ancestry doesn’t give them a pass from taxis refusing to stop for them, clerks following them in department stores, from being racial-profiled by police on street corner stops, from landlords refusing to show them an apartment, or being denied a promotion. The mixed race designation doesn’t magically make disappear the countless other racial sleights and indignities that are tormenting reminders that race still does matter, and matter a lot to many Americans…

Read the entire article here.

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Census Race Change For Hispanics Sparks Criticism

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-01-14 18:08Z by Steven

Census Race Change For Hispanics Sparks Criticism

The Huffington Post
2013-01-09

Tony Castro

Some Latino civil rights groups are questioning the U.S. Census consideration of designating Hispanics a race of their own, fearing the loss of national original designations.

The change, making “Hispanic” a racial instead of an ethnic category, would eliminate the check-off boxes for national origins such as Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican.

“There is no unanimity on what any of this stuff means,” says Angelo Falcón, director of the National Institute for Latino Policy and co-chair of a coalition of Latino advocacy groups that recently met with Census officials.

“Right now, we’re very comfortable with having the Hispanic (origin) question… Hispanic as a race category? I don’t think there’s any consensus on that.”

Scholars oppose “Hispanic” being considered a race

Fordham University law professor Tanya Hernández, author of the new book Racial Subordination in Latin America, is among the scholars opposing the proposal to join race and ethnicity as a “Hispanic” category.

“Census data is used in very important ways, for example to monitor compliance regarding civil rights and racial disparities,” says Hernandez, who fears that eliminating existing racial categories would have a negative impact…

Read the entire article here.

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The Obama Era: A New Age in American Politics

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-01-06 18:21Z by Steven

The Obama Era: A New Age in American Politics

The Huffington Post
2012-12-05

Brandon Hill
Stanford University

Barack Obama’s elections—both 2008 and 2012—have inaugurated a new political reality in America. He has rewritten history in two consecutive elections, and his groundbreaking victories will forever change the game of politics in our country. Before 2008 the political process was perceived as exclusive and elusive, accessible to only a few privileged players. But after two presidential elections of unprecedented campaign involvement and voter turnout, historically soft-spoken and underrepresented groups like African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, women, and young people are now reclaiming ownership of their political destinies. And the revolution is only just beginning.

Welcome to the Obama era.

President Obama has reengineered America’s political atmosphere, where political inclusion has now replaced the status quo. Obama brings a new face to political leadership. He is a refreshing departure from the markedly un-diverse brand of presidents and politicians that preceded him. He is real and relatable and able to reach more people, which encourages new groups to become engaged in the political process. In the Obama era, politics is no longer an enterprise reserved for old balding White men. It is no longer an old boys’ network or a country club aristocracy. Instead, it is a democracy built for and by the everyday American, and it is this inclusiveness that is politically energizing young people, women, and communities of color…

…Obama connects with a broader spectrum of people than past candidates and presidents have. Reagan alienated Black voters with his Welfare Queen caricature. Romney dyed his face orange trying to appeal to Hispanic Univision viewers. Bush refused to let Hurricane Katrina ruin the end of his vacation, surveying the ruined low-income communities from the comfort of Air Force One instead of consoling families on the ground. These types of blunders make it clear why many groups historically have felt disconnected from political leadership.

Obama’s massive appeal to minorities, women, and youth is that he is relatable. He’s real. Little Black boys find confidence in the fact that the president’s hair texture is the same as theirs. Latino parents find assurance in the fact that their president speaks their native tongue. Middle age women find solace in the fact that their president has two young daughters and will protect a woman’s right to her own body. College students across the nation find inspiration in the fact that their president can shoot the breeze with foreign heads of state, shoot down terrorist masterminds, and shoot a wicked jump shot all at the same time. Obama has both swagger and substance, a potent combination that prior commanders in chief have lacked. It’s simple. More people feel connected to the political process because now more people feel connected to their political leader.

The Obama era is a new age that politically empowers the people that the political process has historically overlooked. It is an age where those who were once voiceless have become the most vocal; where the most apathetic have claimed significant authority. Now that minorities and women and youth have taken the reins in the past two elections, I don’t see this trend changing any time soon…

Read the entire article here.

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Black (Or Not) Like Me: Thoughts on CNN’s Black in America 5

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-12-11 22:10Z by Steven

Black (Or Not) Like Me: Thoughts on CNN’s Black in America 5

The Huffington Post
2012-12-10

Smokey Fontaine, Chief Content Officer
Interactive One

I know who my colleagues think I am. I’m pretty sure they’ve accepted me as the lightest Black dude in the office. My job demands that I constantly engage co-workers around racial issues, so I have opportunities to represent my Black experience all the time which I’m sure gains me some points.

But it’s different in the street. My what-is-he? scorecard for strangers who pass me by in New York City is as follows:

  • 60 percent think I’m Latino
  • 25 percent think I’m Black or interracial
  • 15 percent think I’m White

Pretty good percentages for me because I’m only comfortable when my see-me-as-a-person-of-color index is above half. That was my problem in Baltimore. Living there for a few years to teach sixth grade at Booker T. Washington Middle School made me vulnerable to mis-identification in a southern environment without a significant Latino population. My white quotient jumped to above 50…

…CNN’s latest installment of their top-rated Black In America series handles these complex issues of identity, asking young African-Americans of various shades and backgrounds to discuss their experience. First, I’m surprised that it took them so long to address this topic (especially given series hostess Soledad O’Brien’s interracial heritage), but I was most struck by how the young people’s experiences were so similar to mine and those of my (not all-Black) friends 20 years ago. It was like I was watching a video of a college I-Pride meeting from 1995.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Every generation’s naivete drives their passion to figure out the world and clearly the show’s goal is to raise more questions than it answers. But as cultural critic Stuart Hall liked to say, “cultural identity is one of becoming as well as being. Like everything which is historical… [identities] undergo constant transformation” and I didn’t feel that in the show.

There is a cultural upheaval going on in our country that is expanding ideas about Blackness. Latino, Asian and even white identity are also being affected (don’t get it twisted: the identity of caucausian culture is as dependent on people of color as the other way around). But this shift was not loudly represented by all the great young folks in Black In America talking about how they see and socialize themselves…

What I’ve learned is that when there is a gap between how someone feels about themselves and how they’re perceived by others, you get conflict. Even within my own interracial family, there are darker-skinned folks who take on their Italian maiden name as an homage to the white mother that raised them (and a dis to the Black father who didn’t), and lighter-skinned folks who refuse to ever straighten their hair to avoid any more obvious connections to a European heritage…

Read the entire article here.

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Whiteness in the Age of Obama

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-11-27 18:08Z by Steven

Whiteness in the Age of Obama

The Huffington Post
2012-11-26

Jedediah Purdy, Professor of Law
Duke University

Recall the numbers: 59 percent of white voters supported Romney. More dramatically, 88 percent of his votes came from whites. One simple but plausible analysis suggested that Obama won a majority of white votes only in New England, New York, and Hawaii. His national share of the white vote fell by several points after four years in which Republicans, especially the Tea Party, worked relentlessly to be the party of whiteness.

As I’ve noted before (and so have lots of others), this was the barely-concealed meaning of Tea Party claims that Obama was not American, not constitutionally the president, somehow deeply alien. These ideas are so unmoored from reality that they have to be approached as symptoms, not positions. Race was also much of the meaning of tying Obama to food stamps, and of (barely less public) assertions that health care reform was a giveaway from white taxpayers to black dependents.

Those notorious maps showing the overlap between Romney states and the old Confederacy take on a grim extra plausibility when you consider that Obama seems to have taken less than 20 percent of the white vote in the core states of the Deep South—Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. I’m reminded of the friend in West Virginia who told me, back in 1988, that one reason to support Jesse Jackson in the Democratic primary was that he could pick out his solitary vote when the local newspaper printed the results.

But consider: whiteness, like any other racial category, is a made-up thing. It is a matter of what people do, not what they are. (Social construction is the clunky academic name for this.) Like other made-up things, it changes. Obama’s share of the youth vote in swing states like Virginia, Florida, and Ohio was so high that clearly, somewhere around age 30, a majority of white people started supporting the president. Romney’s success with old people isn’t just a matter of the fact that America used to be much more white. It’s that white people used to be much more white—in the Mitt Romney sense of white. Whiteness, too, is changing. What might it become?…

Race in the age of Obama

There are many ways to look at Barack Obama, a fact that has been both a strength and a weakness in his political career. One of those, one he invites and seems to believe, is that he is a man who made a pair of deliberate choices: to be black and to be American, to identify with both those traditions and to braid their hopes more tightly together. This is the conclusion of his memoir, Dreams from My Father, and it has rippled through a good deal of what he has done and said as President.

That American identity is open to this kind of choice is one of the best things about it. That Obama’s claim to stand at the center of American identity has inspired so much resistance is a sign of the value of that central place, of its being—sometimes tragically—worth fighting over.

All of us who live in Obama’s age are, more or less explicitly, engaged in the same problem: how to orient ourselves to an American identity that no longer has its old center. The change, the beginning of overcoming the America-is-whiteness myth, is overdue and entirely right.

Maybe that identity will be more comfortably hybrid. American civic myth has always involved the fantasy of purity. The Pilgrims were righteous, goes the myth. So were the Revolutionaries. The Founders were wise and beneficent. The Constitution is full of moral truth. Our wars are good wars.

There is a strange half-rhyme between that fantasy of purity and the fantasy of race, especially the bad old idea that whiteness contains something special, rare, and pure—an idea few will say in public anymore, but which still echoes in our racially divided politics. These myths had many victims, most obviously those whom they defined as not quite, or not at all, American. More subtly, they mutilated history itself. They cost everyone the chance at an honest start to understanding the present by appreciating the past…

Read the entire article here.

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