Mixing Race, Risk, and Reward in the Digital Age (Sawyer Seminar IV)

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2013-11-01 04:04Z by Steven

Mixing Race, Risk, and Reward in the Digital Age

University of Southern California
Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Center for Japanese Religions and Culture
University Park Campus
Doheny Memorial Library (DML), East Asian Seminar Room: 110C
2013-11-05, 13:00-17:00 PST (Local Time)

USC Conference Convenors:

Duncan Williams, Associate Professor of Religion
University of Southern California

Brian C. Bernards, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Southern California

Velina Hasu Houston, Associate Dean for Faculty Recognition and Development, Director of Dramatic Writing and Professor
University of Southern California

What are the outcomes of evolving racial ideologies in North America and how are they impacting 21st century American identities?  How do 21st century multiracial identities and representations reflect and challenge historical constructions of racial mixing?  How does racial mixing inform transhumanistic enterprises (i.e., wearable technology) and impact educational experiences dedicated to mixed-race studies in digital spaces?

PRESENTERS:

“Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity”

Marcia Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Communication Studies
University of Southern California (Author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity (Baylor University Press, 2012) and Eminem: The Real Slim Shady (Praeger, 2013).)

“Frizzly Studies: Law, History, Narrative, and the Color Line”

Daniel J. Sharfstein, Professor of Law
Vanderbilt University (Author of The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (Penguin Press, 2013) and “Crossing the Color Line: Racial Migration and the Emergence of the One-Drop Rule, 1600-1860,” Minnesota Law Review (2007).)

“Tweeting into the Future: Mixing Race and Technology in the 21st Century”

Ulli K. Ryder, Scholar in Residence, Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life
Brown University (Author of forthcoming book Mixed Race 3.0: Mixing Race, Risk & Reward in the Digital Age (Annenberg Press, 2014).)

For more information, click here.

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Clearly Invisible Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity by Marcia Alesan Dawkins, and: The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics and Aesthetics in the New Millennium by Michele Elam (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-10-08 21:15Z by Steven

Clearly Invisible Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity by Marcia Alesan Dawkins, and: The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics and Aesthetics in the New Millennium by Michele Elam (review)

Philip Roth Studies
Volume 9, Number 2, Fall 2013
pages 99-103
DOI: 10.1353/prs.2013.0024

Donavan L. Ramon
Rutgers University

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012, vxi + 229 pp.

Michele Elam, The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium, Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2011, xxiii + 277 pp.

According to W.E.B. DuBois’s prophetic theory articulated in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line” (221). Myriad critical and popular pieces over the past several years suggest that this theory has run its course: the celebration of mixed race people putatively implies the “end” of race. Certainly the election of the first biracial president has been touted as the epitome of post-race life in America. Yet as recent critical interventions by Michele Elam and Marcia Alesan Dawkins remind us, race remains prevalent because of biracial people, not in spite of it.

The continuities between DuBois’s theory and Elam’s are underscored by the title of the latter’s monograph. In The Souls of Mixed Folk, the Stanford University English Professor asserts that the notion of post-Black art being apolitical is a complete fiction, much like the idea that post-Civil Rights politics are in decline. By examining the images of mixed race subjects in a wide range of artistic forms, Elam argues that these venues are the newer locations that “engage issues of civil rights and social change” (16). To accept this belief, she begins her book by convincing readers that the increased interest in mixed race deludes many people into believing that race no longer exists. If this is truly the case, then why do fictional representations of biracial people continue to represent anxiety across a multitude of genres? More specifically, why has the last several years seen a resurgence in narratives of racial passing—such as Philip Roth’s The Human Stain?

Elam explores these questions across five thoroughly researched and well-written chapters. The first traces the history of mixed race studies in curricula across the nation while raising related yet ignored issues. For instance she problematizes the focus of heteronormative depictions of mixed race families at the expense of homosexual ones, while also reminding us that mixed Americans have historically been the result of sexual violation. She believes we must be mindful of considering the product of these unions as representatives of racial progress without understanding the nuances of slavery and violence inflicted on black bodies by whites.

Chapter two changes the focus from history to contemporary comic strips by Aaron McGruder and Nate Creekmore. In their works, Elam rightly sees racial identity as “a matter of public negotiation, social location, cultural affirmation, political commitment, and historical homage” (58). In chapter four, Elam situates the traditional European bildungsroman against the “mixed race bildungsroman”. The former focuses on the “social incorporation of the individual” (125) whereas protagonists in the latter are not “incorporated into the society or the social progress that they are supposed to represent . . . [and they] challenge the popular image of the ‘modern minority’” (126). She applies her theory of the “mixed race bildungsroman” to Emily Raboteau’s The Professor’s Daughter (1997) and Danzy Senna’s Symptomatic (2004). Elam’s last chapter examines performances of mixed race in Carl Hancock Rux’s play Talk and “The Racial Draft” skit from Dave Chappelle’s defunct late-night comedy show. Her argument here is that in both performances, there is a “re-visioning and a re-membering of the national order” (161).

The middle chapter is the one that is most germane to this journal, as it examines racial passing in Danzy Senna’s Causcasia (1999), Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000), and Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist (2000). Despite research to the contrary, Elam begins this chapter by arguing that racial passing literature is far from being an obsolete genre, as these novels attest. Despite living in a post-race era, these narratives collectively argue for the rebirth of racial passing as a “social inquiry” (98). Explaining further, the novels addressed here force readers to reconsider “the performative, iterative nature of racial identity as a rich social heuristic” (98).

This is nowhere more evident than in The Human Stain , where racial passing acts as a “reactionary vehicle to critique political correctness”—particularly because it is set during President Clinton’s sex scandal (98). In this regard, “performance,” can have multiple meanings in the novel: one referring…

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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky Explains What it Is to Be Mixed and Happy

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-08-27 04:07Z by Steven

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky Explains What it Is to Be Mixed and Happy

The Huffington Post
2010-05-04

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

Professors Ravinder Barn and Vicki Harman from the Centre for Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London are carrying out a groundbreaking research project about white mothers and mixed race children. Theirs is part of a wider study of mixed race children, youth and families that has spanned over twenty years. According to Dr. Harman, “white mothers of mixed-parentage children can find themselves dealing with racism directed at their children as well as facing social disapproval themselves.” Such is the case with Nella, the white mother of mixed race protagonist Rachel, in Heidi W. Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

Read the entire article 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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We are going to need new terms that reflect numerical reality and social-political reality…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-07-15 02:32Z by Steven

We are going to need new terms that reflect numerical reality and social-political reality. Part of that implies thinking about what race and ethnicity mean in general and what specific racial and ethnic, and multiracial and multiethnic, identities mean in particular. At the same time, we’ve got to remember that every racial or ethnic community has some issues and experiences in common and is also unique.

For one, these changes mean that the white-black and white-people of color binaries need to be rethought and replaced with a full-color perspective on race and ethnicity. A full-color perspective acknowledges that racial and ethnic mixing has been part of our social fabric since Europeans met and mated with Native Americans; that it continued on through African enslavement and segregation and Asian exclusion and internment; that it progressed with increased rates of Hispanic immigration and is still with us as increasing numbers of interracial and multiracial couples get together and have children today. A full-color perspective must also acknowledge that racial and ethnic mixing has been occurring for centuries in same-sex communities as well.
 
On one hand, sociologists predict that the definition of whiteness will expand to include Hispanic and Asian groups but will always exclude those with African-American descent in order to maintain political and social power. On the other hand, this prediction is reductive because it assumes that only those who will continue to identify as white will be privileged and that those who will continue to identify as black will be non-privileged. It also ignores the fact that, generally speaking, to be African American is to be racially mixed…

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, “The Future of the ‘Tan Generation’,” (interview with Jenée Desmond-Harris), The Root, June 6, 2012, http://www.theroot.com/views/browner-america-marcia-dawkins-qa.

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The Gil Gross Program with Marcia Dawkins

Posted in Audio, Census/Demographics, New Media, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2013-05-14 02:09Z by Steven

The Gil Gross Program with Marcia Dawkins

The Gil Gross Program
Talk 910, KKSF AM
San Francisco, California
Monday, 2013-05-13

Gil Gross, Host

Gil speaks with Marcia Dawkins, author of “Clearly Invisible; Racial passing and the Color of Cultural Identity“, about the growth of our mulit-racial nation.

Download the audio here.

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Checking More Than One Box: A Growing Multiracial Nation

Posted in Articles, Audio, Census/Demographics, New Media, Social Science, United States on 2013-05-12 22:48Z by Steven

Checking More Than One Box: A Growing Multiracial Nation

All Things Considered
National Public Radio
2013-05-12

Arun Rath, Host

[Note from Steven F. Riley: My wife and I live in the White Oak neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.]

Larry Bright holds his 3-year-old son’s hand while the boy steps through a leafy playground in Silver Spring, Md., and practices counting his numbers in English.

At the top of the slide, the boy begins counting in his other language: Vietnamese.

Bright, the boy’s father, is African-American; his mother, Thien Kim Lam, is Vietnamese. The couple has two children.

“They are a perfect mix between the two of us,” Lam tells Arun Rath, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

Bright and Lam’s son and 7-year-old daughter are multiracial, just two of thousands born in what’s been called a multiracial baby boom. Today, 15 percent of marriages are interracial and inter-ethnic…

Evolving Perspectives

Multiracial people identifying as just one race is part of a long trend. University of Southern California professor Marcia Alesan Dawkins’ father was one such man: part black and part white.

“He has lived his life as an African-American man. He lived through segregation, he lived through civil rights,” Dawkins says. “And though he acknowledges these other aspects of his identity, he sees the world from the perspective of a black man. That’s how he chooses to identify.”

But just one generation makes all the difference for Dawkins herself, who claims black, white and Latino heritage. Dawkins and her sister see the world a little differently, she says.

“I don’t think it’s better or worse, but I think it’s a credit to the progress in both ways that people can choose to identify just as one, or choose to identify as two or more,” Dawkins says.

Despite the trend, Dawkins says it is important to remember that it is still less than 3 percent of the population that identifies as multiracial. The overwhelming majority of Americans identify as having one race only.

That’s not a bad thing, but we have to be really careful how we read and interpret and spin these census results,” she says.

Read the entire story here. Listen to the story here.  Download the audio here.

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‘Mixed Kids Are the Cutest’ Isn’t Cute?

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, New Media, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-09 02:46Z by Steven

‘Mixed Kids Are the Cutest’ Isn’t Cute?

The Root
2013-04-08

Jenée Desmond-Harris, Staff Writer

“I’m a Caucasian woman with a biracial child (her father is black). I live in a predominantly white community. Why is it that whenever people discover that I have a ‘mixed’ child, they always say things like, ‘Oh, he/she must be so cute/gorgeous/adorable, those kids are always the best looking. You are so lucky.’

I know they mean well, but it seems off to me, and maybe racist. Do they mean compared to ‘real’ black children? When a German and Italian or an Asian and Jewish person have a child, black people don’t say, ‘Mixed children like yours are always the best looking.’ (Plus, it’s not true—not all black-white biracial kids are the ‘best looking.’)

Am I being overly sensitive by feeling there’s something off about these comments? If not, what’s the best way to respond?”

I chose this question for the first installment of Race Manners, The Root’s new advice column on racial etiquette and ethics, because it hits close to home. Like your daughter, I’m biracial. Like you, my white mother has developed an acute sensitivity to the subtle ways prejudice and bigotry pop up in daily life. I should know. She calls me to file what I’ve deemed her “racism reports.”

And let’s be clear. Americans of all races say bizarre things to and about mixed people, who can inspire some of the most revealing remarks about our black-white baggage. Just think of the public debates about how MSNBC’s Karen Finney, and even President Obama, should be allowed to identify…

…As Marcia Dawkins, the author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, told me, “The myth that mixed-race offspring are somehow better than nonmixed offspring is an example of ‘hybrid vigor,’ an evolutionary theory which states that the progeny of diverse varieties within a species tend to exhibit better physical and psychological characteristics than either one or both of the parents.”

And just take a wild guess how this idea has popped up for black people. You got it: In order to demean and oppress African Americans, thought leaders throughout history, including the likes of Thomas Jefferson, have said that black-white mixed offspring are better, more attractive, smarter, etc., than “real” blacks and not as good or attractive or smart as “real” whites, Dawkins explains….

Read the entire article here.

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Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Social Science on 2013-03-29 04:13Z by Steven

Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity

Baylor University Press
2012-08-01
285 pages
9in x 6in
5 b/w images
Hardback ISBN: 9781602583122

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Communications and Journalism
University of Southern California

Everybody passes. Not just racial minorities. As Marcia Dawkins explains, passing has been occurring for millennia, since intercultural and interracial contact began. And with this profound new study, she explores its old limits and new possibilities: from women passing as men and able-bodied persons passing as disabled to black classics professors passing as Jewish and white supremacists passing as white.
 
Clearly Invisible journeys to sometimes uncomfortable but unfailingly enlightening places as Dawkins retells the contemporary expressions and historical experiences of individuals called passers. Along the way these passers become people—people whose stories sound familiar but take subtle turns to reveal racial and other tensions lurking beneath the surface, people who ultimately expose as much about our culture and society as they conceal about themselves.
 
Both an updated take on the history of passing and a practical account of passing’s effects on the rhetoric of multiracial identities, Clearly Invisible traces passing’s legal, political, and literary manifestations, questioning whether passing can be a form of empowerment (even while implying secrecy) and suggesting that passing could be one of the first expressions of multiracial identity in the U.S. as it seeks its own social standing.
 
Certain to be hailed as a pioneering work in the study of race and culture, Clearly Invisible offers powerful testimony to the fact that individual identities are never fully self-determined—and that race is far more a matter of sociology than of biology.

Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction: Passing as Passé?
  • 1. Passing as Persuasion
  • 2. Passing as Power
  • 3. Passing as Property
  • 4. Passing as Principle
  • 5. Passing as Pastime
  • 6. Passing as Paradox
  • Conclusion: Passing as Progress?
  • Appendix
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Clearly Invisible, by Marcia Alesan Dawkins

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, New Media, Passing, United States on 2013-01-24 18:19Z by Steven

Clearly Invisible, by Marcia Alesan Dawkins

The Christian Century: Thinking Critically. Living Faithfully.
2013-01-23

Rachel Stone

The one time I visited my maternal grandfather’s house, we had planned to stay four days. I was ten and had seen my grandfather just once before in my life. I don’t recall if he ever spoke to me, but my mother and I are fairly certain that he never called me by my name. That was probably a matter of principle for him—Rachel being a Hebrew name and he being an active anti-Semite.

In the spaces around his desk where family photos might have hung were portraits of Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler. When I put my summer shorts and T-shirts in the creaky oak dresser of the guest room, there was a red, white and black swastika armband in the drawer. We stayed for the night but left the next morning. I never saw him again.

As strange as that story is, the stranger part is this: my grandfather was Jewish, a fact that seems to have been unknown or ignored by the white supremacist groups to which he belonged. He was a Jew passing as a white Christian separatist.

But what about me? My mother became a Christian in her teens after a thoroughly secular upbringing, and my dad was raised Catholic and is now a Baptist pastor. I’m told I don’t look Jewish, or at least that I don’t have a “Jewish nose.” So am I Jewish? Am I passing? Does it matter?

In Clearly Invisible, Marcia Alesan Dawkins explores passing—presenting oneself as a member of a racial group to which one does not belong. Dawkins argues that passing is a rhetorical act that “forces us to think and rethink what, exactly, makes a person black, white or ‘other,’ and why we care.” She articulates a critical vocabulary of 13 “passwords” that can help us understand passing as “a form of rhetoric that is racially sincere, compatible with reasoned deliberative discourse, and expresses what fits rightly when people do not fit rightly with the world around them.”…

Read the entire review here.

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