‘Born a Crime,’ Trevor Noah’s Raw Account of Life Under Apartheid

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa on 2016-12-07 02:43Z by Steven

‘Born a Crime,’ Trevor Noah’s Raw Account of Life Under Apartheid

The New York Times
2016-11-28

Michiko Kakutani, Chief Book Critic


Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” in 2015. His memoir provides a harrowing look at life in South Africa under apartheid and then after that era.
Credit Chad Batka for The New York Times

As host of “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah comes across as a wry, startled and sometimes outraged outsider, commenting on the absurdities of American life. During the presidential campaign, the South African-born comic remarked that Donald J. Trump reminded him of an African dictator, mused over the mystifying complexities of the Electoral College system and pointed out the weirdness of states voting on recreational marijuana.

In the countdown to and aftermath of the election, Mr. Noah has grown more comfortable at moving back and forth between jokes and earnest insights, between humor and serious asides — the way he’s done in his stand-up act, and now, in his compelling new memoir, “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood.”…

Read the entire review here.

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If you can’t be dark-skinned in Africa, then where can you?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-11-28 02:06Z by Steven

And people bleach in Asia — lightening creams and lotions are as ubiquitous in drugstores in Seoul as eye shadow. They do it in Europe, despite the restrictions there on sales of hydroquinone. You can walk into any number of black beauty salons in London and find bleaching creams and lotions.

But Africa? If you can’t be dark-skinned in Africa, then where can you?

Helene Cooper, “What Is the Color of Beauty?,” The New York Times, November 26, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/fashion/skin-bleaching-south-africa-women.html.

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The Identity Politics of Whiteness

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2016-11-28 01:26Z by Steven

The Identity Politics of Whiteness

The New York Times Magazine
2016-11-27

Laila Lalami

Three years ago, I read “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to my daughter. She smiled as she heard about Huck’s mischief, his jokes, his dress-up games, but it was his relationship with the runaway slave Jim that intrigued her most. Huck and Jim travel together as Jim seeks his freedom; at times, Huck wrestles with his decision to help. In the end, Tom Sawyer concocts an elaborate scheme for Jim’s release.

When we finished the book, my daughter had a question: Why didn’t Tom just tell Jim the truth — that Miss Watson had already freed him in her will? She is not alone in asking; scholars have long debated this issue. One answer lies in white identity, which needs black identity in order to define itself, and therefore cannot exist without it.

“Identity” is a vexing word. It is racial or sexual or national or religious or all those things at once. Sometimes it is proudly claimed, other times hidden or denied. But the word is almost never applied to whiteness. Racial identity is taken to be exclusive to people of color: When we speak about race, it is in connection with African-Americans or Latinos or Asians or Native People or some other group that has been designated a minority. “White” is seen as the default, the absence of race. In school curriculums, one month is reserved for the study of black history, while the rest of the year is just plain history; people will tell you they are fans of black or Latin music, but few will claim they love white music…

Read the entire article here.

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For Interracial Couples, Growing Acceptance, With Some Exceptions

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-27 16:35Z by Steven

For Interracial Couples, Growing Acceptance, With Some Exceptions

The New York Times
2016-11-26

Brooke Lea Foster

When I was a new mother living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 2010, I often forgot that my infant son, Harper, didn’t look like me. As I pushed him around the neighborhood, I thought of him as the perfect brown baby, soft-skinned and tulip-lipped, with a full head of black hair, even if it was the opposite of my blond waves and fair skin.

“He’s adorable. What nationality is his mother?” a middle-aged white woman asked me outside Barnes & Noble on Broadway one day, mistaking me for a nanny.

“I am his mother,” I told her. “His daddy is Filipino.”

“Well, good for you,” she said.

It’s a sentiment that mixed-race couples hear all too frequently, as interracial marriages have become increasingly common in the United States since 1967, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia struck down laws banning such unions. The story of the couple whose relationship led to the court ruling is chronicled in the movie, “Loving,” now in theaters.

In 2013, 12 percent of all new marriages were interracial, the Pew Research Center reported. According to a 2015 Pew report on intermarriage, 37 percent of Americans agreed that having more people marrying different races was a good thing for society, up from 24 percent only four years earlier; 9 percent thought it was a bad thing…

Read the entire article here.

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What Is the Color of Beauty?

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2016-11-27 16:10Z by Steven

What Is the Color of Beauty?

The New York Times
2016-11-26

Helene Cooper, Pentagon Correspondent


Tiffany Ford

A multibillion-dollar industry of skin-whitening products dominates the West African beauty market, creating a world of mixed messages for the women who live there.

ACCRA, Ghana — Semiratu Zakaru was standing in the hot sun on a crowded noontime street explaining why Ghana’s new ban against certain skin-bleaching creams was unlikely to work, when her friend, Desmond Kwamina Odonkor, walked up and interrupted our conversation, oozing confidence and game.

“You have to stop bleaching,” he said, sotto voce. Then he winked at her and sauntered off.

Ms. Zakaru, a 23-year-old hairdresser, rolled her eyes. His advice, in her view, was rubbish for the simple reason that “all of his girlfriends are light-skinned.” She said she wasn’t about to stop using the Viva White cream and Clinic Clear lotion that had, over the last year and a half, made her skin several shades lighter than her original chocolate-milk complexion.

Here in the heart of the multibillion-dollar industry of products in West Africa that are meant to whiten skin, it is a world of mixed messages. Women are now being told that it is wrong, and even illegal, to bleach their skin. At the same time, they are flooded with messages — and not even subliminal ones — that tell them that white is beautiful…

…In many West African countries, at the top of that class structure, sit white expats, whether they are European diplomats in affluent neighborhoods, the United States Embassy staff members in their walled compounds or Lebanese merchants in electronic shops.

Next in the hierarchy are the mixed-race people. The European colonists who came to Africa mated with Africans and produced mixed-race offspring, who were then deemed to be of a superior class to the full-blooded Africans. South Africa’s apartheid system went so far as to legally enshrine mixed-race people, called “coloureds.”

“Anyone in this country could see that the mulattos were given precedence everywhere,” Dr. Delle said. “They were more educated, they were viewed as superior.” In many African countries, the word “mulatto” does not have the negative connotation that it has in the United States…

Read the entire article here.

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The End of the Postracial Myth

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-11-20 00:57Z by Steven

The End of the Postracial Myth

The New York Times Magazine
2016-11-15

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Pundits are quick to say that it couldn’t be about prejudice in states like Iowa, where Obama voters went for Trump. But racial anxiety is always close to the surface — and can easily be stoked.

On a cold, clear night in January 2008, when Iowa Democrats selected Barack Obama over a white woman and a white man in the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus, the moment felt transformative. If voters in this overwhelmingly white, rural state could cast their ballots for a black man as president, then perhaps it was possible for the entire nation to do what had never been done; perhaps America had turned far enough away from its racist past that skin color was no longer a barrier to the highest office of the land. In the months that followed, as Obama racked up primary victories, not just in the expected cities but also in largely white Rust Belt towns and farming communities, it seemed evidence for many Americans that the nation had finally become “post-racial.”

Of course, that post-racial dream did not last long, and nothing epitomizes the naïveté of that belief more than the election last week of Donald J. Trump. As I watched my home state of Iowa join the red flood that overtook the electoral map last Tuesday, I asked myself the same questions that so many others did: What happened? Why had states that reliably backed Obama — states like Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — flipped Republican?

I was struck by how quickly white pundits sought to tamp down assertions that race had anything to do with it. It was, it seemed to me, almost a relief to many white Americans that Trump’s victory encompassed so many of the heavily white places that voted for a black man just years before. It was an absolution that let them reassure themselves that Donald Trump’s raucous campaign hadn’t revealed an ugly racist rift after all, that in the end, the discontent that propelled the reality-TV star into the White House was one of class and economic anxiety, not racism.

But this analysis reveals less about the electorate than it does about the consistent inability of many white Americans to think about and understand the complex and often contradictory workings of race in this country, and to discuss and elucidate race in a sophisticated, nuanced way.

While we tend to talk about racism in absolute terms — you’re either racist or you’re not — racism and racial anxiety have always existed on a spectrum. For historians who have studied race in the United States, the change from blue to red in heavily white areas is not surprising. In fact, it was entirely predictable. “There are times when working-class whites, whether rural or urban, will join an interracial alliance to get the short-term gains they want,” Robin Kelley, a history professor at U.C.L.A., told me. “They don’t ever do it without kicking and screaming.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Half and Half

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-19 21:44Z by Steven

Half and Half

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2007-02-11

Bliss Broyard

David Matthews, Ace of Spades, A Memoir (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2007).

Twenty minutes into David Matthews’s first day of fourth grade in a new school in a new city, his classmates surround him and demand to know what he is. When Matthews doesn’t answer, they trail him down the hallway — “as though I were a reprobate head of state ambushed by reporters outside a lurid hotel” — shouting out their guesses: “Black! White! You crazy?! He(’s) too light/dark to be black/white!” One jokester suggests he’s Chinese.

One possible response is that Matthews is mixed: his father is African-American, actually a “prominent black journalist” who counted Malcolm X and James Baldwin among his friends, and his mother is Jewish, although she disappeared to Israel shortly after Matthews was born. But this scene takes place in 1977 in a Baltimore public school that sits between a “Waspy enclave of tony brownstones” and a “world of housing projects, roaming street gangs and bleating squad cars,” and the difference between black and white seems too vast to allow for any unions — or their byproducts — across the conceptual divide. (Although we learn that Matthews needn’t look any further than his own life for exceptions: his best friend, his stepbrother and his half brother are also mixed, though none of them quite so indeterminately as he is.) In the lunchroom, Matthews heads to the table of students he resembles most — in skin color, yes, but also in character. The white kids, with their “nerdy diction” and “Starsky and Hutch” lunchboxes, are similarly introverted and unthreatening, while the black kids, playing the dozens and double Dutch on the playground, are “alive and cool,” and frightening. When a white boy assigned by the homeroom teacher to be Matthews’s buddy for the day makes room for him to sit down, this small, serendipitous gesture sets the dye of his racial identity for the next 20 or so years…

Read the entire review here.

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Zadie Smith: By the Book

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism on 2016-11-19 21:15Z by Steven

Zadie Smith: By the Book

The New York Times
2016-11-17


Zadie Smith Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

The author, most recently, of “Swing Time” says the best gift book she ever received was from her dying father, who “gave me his copy of ‘Ulysses,’ along with the confession he had never read it.”

What books are on your night stand now?

I’m on a reading jag after a long period of only writing, so there’s a towering “to read” pile: “Sudden Death,” by Álvaro Enrigue; “Using Life,” a novel by the imprisoned Egyptian Ahmed Naje; “Homegoing,” by Yaa Gyasi; “Heroes of the Frontier,” by Dave Eggers; “The Underground Railroad,” by Colson Whitehead; “Diary of the Fall,” by Michel Laub; “The Good Immigrant,” edited by Nikesh Shukla; “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson; “Birth of a Bridge,” by Maylis de Kerangal; “Known and Strange Things,” by Teju Cole; “The Little Communist Who Never Smiled,” by Lola Lafon; “The Fire This Time,” edited by Jesmyn Ward; “At the Existentialist Café,” by Sarah Bakewell; “Time Reborn,” by Lee Smolin; “Moonglow,” by Michael Chabon; and let’s say the last four or five novels by Marías, several by Krasznahorkai, and — as always — unfinished Proust. I much prefer reading to writing: I can’t wait…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Danger of a Dominant Identity

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2016-11-19 01:33Z by Steven

The Danger of a Dominant Identity

The New York Times
2016-11-18

David Brooks

Over the past few days we’ve seen what happens when you assign someone a single identity. Pollsters assumed that most Latinos would vote only as Latinos, and therefore against Donald Trump. But a surprising percentage voted for him.

Pollsters assumed women would vote primarily as women, and go for Hillary Clinton. But a surprising number voted against her. They assumed African-Americans would vote along straight Democratic lines, but a surprising number left the top line of the ballot blank.

The pollsters reduced complex individuals to a single identity, and are now embarrassed.

But pollsters are not the only people guilty of reductionist solitarism. This mode of thinking is one of the biggest problems facing this country today.

Trump spent the entire campaign reducing people to one identity and then generalizing. Muslims are only one thing, and they are dangerous. Mexicans are only one thing, and that is alien. When Trump talked about African-Americans he always talked about inner-city poverty, as if that was the sum total of the black experience in America.

Bigots turn multidimensional human beings into one-dimensional creatures. Anti-Semites define Jewishness in a certain crude miniaturizing way. Racists define both blackness and whiteness in just that manner. Populists dehumanize complex people into the moronic categories of “the people” and “the elites.”

But it’s not only racists who reduce people to a single identity. These days it’s the anti-racists, too. To raise money and mobilize people, advocates play up ethnic categories to an extreme degree…

Read the entire article here.

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Review: In ‘Loving,’ They Loved. A Segregated Virginia Did Not Love Them Back.

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2016-11-04 15:36Z by Steven

Review: In ‘Loving,’ They Loved. A Segregated Virginia Did Not Love Them Back.

The New York Times
2016-11-03

Manohla Dargis, Movie Critic


Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard Loving in the Jeff Nichols film “Loving.” Credit Ben Rothstein/Focus Features

There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’sLoving,” which revisits the era when blacks and whites were so profoundly segregated in this country that they couldn’t always wed. It’s a fictionalization of the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, a married couple who were arrested in 1958 because he was white, she was not, and they lived in Virginia, a state that banned interracial unions. Virginia passed its first anti-miscegenation law in 1691, partly to prevent what it called “spurious issue,” or what most people just call children.

The America that the Lovings lived in was as distant as another galaxy, even as it was familiar. The movie opens in the late 1950s, when Mildred (Ruth Negga, a revelation) and Richard (Joel Edgerton, very fine) are young, in love and unmarried. They already have the natural intimacy of long-term couples, the kind that’s expressed less in words and more in how two bodies fit, as if joined by an invisible thread. It’s a closeness that seems to hold their bodies still during a hushed nighttime talk on a porch and that pulls them together at a drag race, under the gaze of silent white men…

Read the entire review here.

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