I occupy the uneasy limbo between exploiter and exploited. I, an African-American woman, am every bit as much a “debtor” to my “race” as any descendant of John C. Calhoun’s or indeed as Georgetown University itself.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-07-24 00:35Z by Steven

I live the paradox that though my brown skin has excluded me from so called white privilege, all my life I have benefited from the plunder of privileged whites. From the time I read Thackeray’s novel “Vanity Fair” as a teenager, I have been fascinated by the character of Rhoda Swartz, the “woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitts,” a mixed race heiress to a lucrative plantation, and real-life figures like her. Now I know why: Their stories are mine, and like them, I occupy the uneasy limbo between exploiter and exploited. I, an African-American woman, am every bit as much a “debtor” to my “race” as any descendant of John C. Calhoun’s or indeed as Georgetown University itself.

Susan Fales-Hill, “I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town,” The New York Times, July 16, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/17/opinion/sunday/i-named-my-mixed-race-daughter-for-a-slave-trading-town.html.

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I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-23 17:55Z by Steven

I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

The New York Times
2016-07-16

Susan Fales-Hill


An oil painting of Susan Fales-Hill’s great-great-great-grandfather hangs in her apartment in Manhattan. He turned out to be not as upstanding as she once thought. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

FOR nearly 20 years, my great-great-great-grandfather’s portrait has watched over me from my red dining room wall. With his high collar, ruffled cravat and black waistcoat, Samuel Fales, 1775-1848, is the very image of the upstanding 19th-century New England gentleman. An eminent merchant and alderman of Boston, he was the founder of the family’s shipping business. I’ve known his face and taken comfort in his smile since I was a child attending Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s in the 1960s.

Samuel Fales seemed utterly unperturbed by the changes the 20th century had wrought, among them his great-great-grandson’s unorthodox choice of bride: my mother, a black Haitian-American actress, and my brother and me, his mixed-race descendants. His portrait has stood as an emblem of our family’s pride in its history. “You have relatives on both sides of your family who fought in the American Revolution,” my mother would frequently remind me.

To honor my forebears, my husband and I named our only child Bristol, after the town in Rhode Island where some of the Faleses first settled in the 17th century. A year ago, I learned through new historical research that Bristol had in fact served as a main hub of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This gave me great pause. Had I done my daughter a dreadful disservice? Upon reflection, I decided that naming a multicultural African-American after a slave port was in fact redemptive, the ultimate act of reclamation.

It never occurred to me that my family might have participated in the port’s inhumane commerce…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama Faces Growing Expectations on Race and Policing

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-07-21 18:02Z by Steven

Obama Faces Growing Expectations on Race and Policing

The New York Times
2016-07-21

Julie Hirschfeld Davis

WASHINGTON — At the White House last week, DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter activist who was arrested only days before in Baton Rouge, La., for protesting police violence against African-Americans, had a lengthy list of demands for President Obama.

The president should visit Baton Rouge and other cities where black men have been killed by police officers, appoint special prosecutors to investigate the deaths and use his executive power to force changes in police departments across the country, Mr. Mckesson said.

The next day, a distraught Erica Garner, whose father, Eric Garner, was killed in 2014 by a New York City police officer who placed him in a chokehold, accosted Mr. Obama after a televised town-hall-style meeting with demands of her own. Why have no police officers been convicted or sent to jail for killing black men, and what was he doing to rid police departments of the tactical military equipment that made community protest routes resemble war zones, she asked.

As Mr. Obama responds to the latest in fatal confrontations between police officers and black men — this time followed by lethal attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge on law enforcement officers by black gunmen — he has also confronted a growing list of expectations that young black activists have placed on him…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama’s Delicate Balance on Issue of Race and Policing

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-07-09 18:20Z by Steven

Obama’s Delicate Balance on Issue of Race and Policing

The New York Times
2017-07-08

Mark Landler, White House Correspondent

Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent

WARSAW — As Air Force One headed for Europe on Thursday afternoon, President Obama holed up in the plane’s office editing a Facebook post meant to express his anguish at two deadly shootings by police officers. Given what had happened, he told his aides, he didn’t think it was enough.

Wrestling with what the appropriate thing to do instead was the start of a wrenching 10 hours in which Mr. Obama would find himself whipsawed by grim events back home, forcing him to once again search for the right tone in a moment of national shock and mourning.

In that time, Mr. Obama delivered a trans-Atlantic call for racial justice after the gruesome deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, only to face the same television cameras hours later to denounce the killings of five officers by a black sniper.

For Mr. Obama, the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul and the bloody reprisal in Dallas encapsulated the challenge he has faced throughout his presidency: how to confront a justice system that he views as tilted against the very people whom he, as the nation’s first black president, seemed singularly equipped to help…

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Charles Blow blows his horn in the New York Times

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-29 20:19Z by Steven

Charles Blow blows his horn in the New York Times

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners
2016-06-27

Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

In today’s New York Times, opinion editor Charles Blow delivers a harsh critique of the movie, Free State of Jones, arguing that its treatment of slavery in general and the rape of slave women in particular amounts to a “genteel treatment” of the institution. Blow then turns to my book “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, and accuses me of using “grossly inappropriate descriptors” to characterize what in reality was rape. To demonstrate, he quotes the following passage from my book:

Through encounters with women such as Rachel, Newt knew that white men regularly crossed the color line despite laws and social taboos that forbade interracial liaisons and marriages. Rachel, light-skinned and physically attractive, was the sort of slave after whom many white men lusted. The fact that she had a white-skinned daughter announced to interested men that she had already been “initiated” into the world of interracial relations. (page 86)

With great indignation, Blow then exclaims, “Encounters? Liaisons? Initiated? Sexual relations? As long as she was a slave this was rape! Always. Period.”

I responded in the comments section of his op ed with the following:…

Read the entire article here.

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White Savior, Rape and Romance?

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-28 01:41Z by Steven

White Savior, Rape and Romance?

The New York Times
2016-06-27

Charles M. Blow

The movie “Free State of Jones” certainly doesn’t lack in ambition — it sprawls so that it feels like several films stitched together — but I still found it woefully lacking.

The story itself is quite interesting. It’s about Newton Knight, a white man in Mississippi during and after the Civil War, who organizes and mounts a somewhat successful rebellion against the Confederacy. He falls in love with a mixed-race slave named Rachel, and they establish a small community of racially ambiguous relatives that a book of the same title calls “white Negroes.”

It is easy to see why this story would appeal to Hollywood executives. It has a bit of everything, with eerie echoes of modern issues.

It comes in the wake of “12 Years a Slave,” at a time when slave narratives are en vogue, only this story emphasizes white heroism and centers on the ally instead of the enslaved.

It tries desperately to cast the Civil War, and specifically dissent within the Confederacy, as more a populism-versus-elitism class struggle in which poor white men were forced to fight a rich white man’s war and protect the cotton trade, rather than equally a conflict about the moral abhorrence of black slavery.

Throughout, there is the white liberal insistence that race is merely a subordinate construction of class, with Newt himself saying at the burial of poor white characters, “somehow, some way, sometime, everybody is just somebody else’s nigger.”

And, by extension, there is the lingering suggestion of post-racialism because, as the author Victoria E. Bynum writes in the book’s preface, the relationship between Newt and Rachel “added the specter of interracial intimacy to the story.”…

Read the entire review here.

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How Jesse Williams Stole BET Awards With Speech on Racism

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-27 18:42Z by Steven

How Jesse Williams Stole BET Awards With Speech on Racism

The New York Times
2016-06-27

Katie Rogers

Jesse Williams accepting the humanitarian award at the BET Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Credit Matt Sayles/Invision, via Associated Press

The BET Awards Sunday featured tributes to Prince and Muhammad Ali, and a performance by Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar. But this year, the actor Jesse Williams commanded the spotlight with an impassioned speech calling for an end to police killings, racial inequality and cultural appropriation.

His was far from the only political statement of the evening: With the words “Don’t Trump America” written on his back, the singer Usher used his performance to make a statement against Donald J. Trump. And when Taraji P. Henson, the star of “Empire,” accepted her best actress award, she also warned the audience about Mr. Trump.

Since 2009, Mr. Williams has been played the role of Dr. Jackson Avery on “Grey’s Anatomy.” When he is not working on the set of the hospital drama, Mr. Williams, a former teacher, champions causes related to civil rights. He starred in and produced “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” a documentary that premiered last month on BET. He produces Question Bridge, an art project about the experience of black men in America, and works with Sankofa, an organization dedicated to ending racial injustice.

The child of a white mother and a black father, Mr. Williams told The Guardian last October that his parents had shaped his activist roots, and said that being biracial allowed him to see both sides of a cultural divide.

“I have access to rooms and information,” he told the newspaper. “I am white and I am also black. I am invisible man in a lot of these scenarios. I know how white people talk about black people. I know how black people talk about white folks.”…

Read the entire article here.

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He has been torn between America’s noble ideals of democracy and its cruel realities of race…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-06-26 19:24Z by Steven

President Obama is an extraordinary figure who has done some good things in bad times, and some great things under impossible circumstances. As the first black president he has faced enormous difficulties and has had to weather a steady downpour of bad faith from the right wing and racist resistance from bigoted quarters of the country. He has been torn between America’s noble ideals of democracy and its cruel realities of race — a tension he rode into office, and one that occasionally defeated his desire to reconcile the best and worst halves of the nation he governs.

Michael Eric Dyson, “Barack Obama, the President of Black America?,” The New York Times, June 24, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/opinion/sunday/barack-obama-the-president-of-black-america.html.

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Barack Obama, the President of Black America?

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2016-06-26 01:56Z by Steven

Barack Obama, the President of Black America?

The New York Times
2016-06-24

Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

What the haters and the hagiographers get wrong.

It was a crucial speech, high-stakes even for a man used to giving important speeches: The first black president of the United States had to acknowledge, and then bind up, the nation’s racial wounds. A year ago, after the massacre of nine souls at prayer at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Barack Obama traveled to Charleston, S.C., to eulogize its pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

When Mr. Obama stood in the pulpit, I saw him as thrust into a peculiar position: He nobly assumed a symbolic, though not individual, guilt for the hate that had been visited on Charleston, largely because the white killer appeared to despise black progress, and there was no clearer representation of that progress than President Obama.

The president had a lot to do in that eulogy. He had to give comfort to a grieving family and congregation. He also had to make amends for seven years of public gestures of tough love toward black folks.

To do that, the president brilliantly evoked grace as an antidote to hate and preached in a black style to forge healing and redemption. He ended with a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.” As the call and response of the black church came full circle, Mr. Obama was at his best when he was at his blackest. It was a rare display of unapologetic race pride.

We are now approaching the last months of the Obama era. He will be remembered as a great, but flawed, president, and many of those flaws have to do with how he has addressed race — or avoided doing so…

Read the entire article here.

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Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-24 14:57Z by Steven

Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

The New York Times
2016-06-23

A. O. Scott, Film Critic


Matthew McConaughey, left, and Jacob Lofland in “Free State of Jones.” Credit Murray Close/STX Entertainment

Free State of Jones” begins on the battlefield, with a flurry of the kind of immersive combat action that has long been a staple of American movies. The setting is familiar in other ways, too. As a line of Confederate troops marches across a field into Union rifle and artillery fire, a haze of myth starts to gather over the action, a mist of sentiment about the tragedy of the Civil War and the symmetrical valor of the soldiers on both sides of it. But this is a sly piece of misdirection: The rest of the movie will be devoted to blowing that fog away, using the tools of Hollywood spectacle to restore a measure of clarity to our understanding of the war and its aftermath.

Directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”) with blunt authority and unusual respect for historical truth, “Free State of Jones” explores a neglected and fascinating chapter in American history. Mr. Ross consulted some of the leading experts in the era — including Eric Foner of Columbia University, whose “Reconstruction” is the definitive study, and Martha Hodes of New York University, author of a prizewinning study of interracial sexuality in the 19th-century South — and has done a good job of balancing the factual record with the demands of dramatic storytelling. The result is a riveting visual history lesson, whose occasional didacticism is integral to its power.

The hero of this tale is Newton Knight, a poor farmer from Jones County, Miss., who led a guerrilla army of white deserters and escaped slaves against the Confederacy during the war. Afterward, he tried to hold this coalition together as a political force in the face of Ku Klux Klan terror. As played by Matthew McConaughey, Newton is an ordinary man radicalized by circumstances. His hollow cheeks and wild whiskers suggest a zealous temperament, but the kindness in his eyes conveys the decency and compassion that lie at the heart of his moral commitment…

…“Free State of Jones” is careful not to suggest that the conditions endured by disenfranchised white and enslaved black Mississippians were identical. The system may be rigged against both, but in different ways. Especially after the war, the alliance proves fragile, as white supremacy reasserts itself with renewed brutality. Its persistence is emphasized by a subplot that takes place 85 years after the war in a Mississippi courtroom, where Davis Knight (Brian Lee Franklin), a descendant of Newton’s, is on trial for breaking the state’s law against interracial marriage…

Read the entire review here.

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