The Talk: After Ferguson, a Shaded Conversation About Race

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-12-14 22:08Z by Steven

The Talk: After Ferguson, a Shaded Conversation About Race

The New York Times
2014-12-13

Dana Canedy, Senior Editor

LIKE so many African-American parents, I had rehearsed “the talk,” that nausea-inducing discussion I needed to have with my son about how to conduct himself in the presence of the police. I was prepared for his questions, except for one.

“Can I just pretend I’m white?”

Jordan was born to African-American parents, but recessive genes being what they are, he has very fair skin and pale blue eyes. I am caramel brown, and since his birth eight years ago people have mistaken me for his nanny.

When I asked why he would want to “pass” for white, I struggled with how to respond to his answer.

“Because it’s safer,” Jordan replied. “They won’t hurt me.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Mr. Obama Considers the Nationwide Protests From Three Points of View

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-14 17:43Z by Steven

Mr. Obama Considers the Nationwide Protests From Three Points of View

The New York Times
2014-12-12

Brent Staples, Editorial Writer

Barack Obama understood when he sought the presidency that a black candidate who spoke candidly about racism would never attract enough white support to win. He avoided using race as a platform for grievance, kept his distance from people who did and presented his life and career as an example of racial progress.

His optimism appealed to white voters; it asked nothing of them and implied a hopeful end to the racial hostilities that have dogged the country since its founding. But the easy-listening approach to racism was received skeptically by young African-Americans who live in communities that bear the brunt of unemployment, economic segregation and police harassment.

Anger over the police problem coalesced into a national movement after a grand jury in St. Louis County, Mo., declined to indict the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, and a grand jury in New York took the same stance on the white officer who applied the chokehold that killed Eric Garner, who was also black and also unarmed.

As the demonstrations spread, Mr. Obama must have recognized that it would be wise to make contact with the young leaders of this movement.

When he met with them last week at the White House, he had three roles to play: as the president of the United States, who must refrain from putting his thumb on the scales of justice in cases like the ones that have sparked the recent demonstrations; as an African-American man who knows the experience of being presumed a criminal by police officers who once harassed him because of his skin color; and as a former community organizer who recognizes that the demonstrations could focus the country’s attention on abusive police practices that have long been a national problem…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Who We Be,’ by Jeff Chang

Posted in Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-13 21:18Z by Steven

‘Who We Be,’ by Jeff Chang

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2014-12-12

Tricia Rose, Director
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America
Brown ­University, Providence, Rhode Island

Who We Be: The Colorization of America. By Jeff Chang. Illustrated. 403 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $32.99.

The dramatic changes spurred by the civil rights ­movement and other 1960s social upheavals are often chronicled as a time line of catalytic legal victories that ended anti-black segregation. Jeff Chang’sWho We Be: The Colorization of America” claims that cultural changes were equally important in transforming American society, and that both the legal and cultural forms of desegregation faced a sustained hostile response that continues today.

According to Chang, the author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation,” multiculturalism challenged who and what defined America, going straight to the heart of who “we” thought we were and who “we” aspired to be. Attacks on exclusions by multicultural scholars and artists were taking place everywhere. University battles raged over whether the Western literature canon should continue to be elevated, or imagined ­outside the politics of racial hierarchies. Artists confronted the nearly all-white and all-male elite art world. Chang even ­describes Coca-Cola’s influential 1971 “I’d like to teach the world to sing” advertisement as a signal of how profitable a “harmonious” multicultural marketing plan could be. But over the next several decades, all the way through Obama’s elections, powerful counterattacks were launched, increasingly in racially oblique language. “Both sides understood that battles over culture were high-stakes,” Chang writes. “The struggle between restoration and transformation, retrenchment and change, began in culture.”…

…Surely our national fabric is more racially diverse than ever before, and a few more people of color have access to powerful cultural institutions. At the same time, “Who We Be” left me wondering about the resilience of power. It is possible but not inevitable that multiculturalism will fuel the creation of an anti-racist and fully inclusive society. But it is also possible that we could ­become the kind of multiracial society that keeps its darker-skinned people at the bottom to provide cultural raw material to a powerful white elite that celebrates the diversity on which it depends…

Read the entire review here.

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Unrest Over Race Is Testing Obama’s Legacy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-09 15:10Z by Steven

Unrest Over Race Is Testing Obama’s Legacy

The New York Times
2014-12-08

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, White House Reporter

Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — As crowds of people staged “die-ins” across the country last week to protest the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers, young African-American activists were in the Oval Office lodging grievances with President Obama.

He of all people — the first black president of the United States — was in a position to testify to the sense of injustice that African-Americans feel in dealing with the police every day, the activists told him. During the unrest that began with a teenager’s shooting in Ferguson, Mo., they hoped for a strong response. Why was he holding back?

Mr. Obama told the group that change is “hard and incremental,” a participant said, while reminding them that he had once been mistaken for a waiter and parking valet. When they said their voices were not being heard, Mr. Obama replied, “You are sitting in the Oval Office, talking to the president of the United States.”

For Rasheen Aldridge Jr., 20, a community organizer from St. Louis who attended the meeting, it was not enough. “It hurt that he didn’t seem to want to go out there and acknowledge that he understands our pain,” Mr. Aldridge said in an interview. “It would be a great mark on his presidential legacy if he would come out and touch an issue that everyone is scared to touch.”

But Mr. Obama has not been the kind of champion for racial justice that many African-Americans say this moment demands. In the days since grand juries in Missouri and Staten Island decided not to bring charges against white police officers who had killed unarmed black men, the president has not stood behind the protesters or linked arms with civil rights leaders. Although those closest to Mr. Obama insist that he feels a new urgency to capitalize on the attention to racial divisions, few dispute that he is personally conflicted and constrained by the position he holds…

…The son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya has struggled with questions about his own racial identity — described in his book “Dreams From My Father” — but Mr. Obama is by nature cool and cerebral and rarely shows emotion in public…

Read the entire article here.

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White Anxiety and the Futility of Black Hope

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-12-09 02:07Z by Steven

White Anxiety and the Futility of Black Hope

The New York Times
2014-12-05

George Yancy, Professor of Philosophy
Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Shannon Sullivan, Professor of Philosophy
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

This is the third in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Shannon Sullivan, a professor in the department of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She is the author of “Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism.” — George Yancy

George Yancy: What motivated you to engage “whiteness” in your work as a philosopher?

Shannon Sullivan: It was teaching feminist philosophy for the first time or two and trying to figure out how to reach the handful of men in the class — white men, now that I think of it. They tended to be skeptical at best and openly hostile at worst to the feminist ideas we were discussing. They felt attacked and put up a lot of defenses. I was trying to see things from their perspective, not to endorse it (it was often quite sexist!), but to be more effective as a teacher. And so I thought about my whiteness and how I might feel and respond in a class that critically addressed race in ways that implicated me personally. Not that race and gender are the same or can be captured through analogies, but it was a first step toward grappling with my whiteness and trying to use it.

What really strikes me now, as I think about your question, is how old I was — around 30 — before I ever engaged whiteness philosophically, or personally, for that matter. Three decades where that question never came up and yet the unjust advantages whiteness generally provides white people fully shaped my life, including my philosophical training and work…

G.Y.: For many whites the question of their whiteness never comes up or only comes up when they are much older, as it did in your case. And yet, as you say, there is the accrual of unjust white advantages. What are some reasons that white people fail to come to terms with the fact that they benefit from whiteness?

S.S.: That’s a tough one and there probably are lots of reasons, including beliefs in boot-strap individualism, meritocracy and the like. Another answer, I think, has to do with class differences among white people. A lot of poor white people haven’t benefited as much from whiteness as middle- and upper-class white people have. Poor white people’s “failure” to come to terms with the benefits of their whiteness isn’t as obvious, I guess I’d say. I’m not talking about a kind of utilitarian calculus where we can add up and compare quantities of white advantage, but there are differences…

G.Y.: And yet for so many poor people of color there is not only the fact that the wages pay less than pennies, as it were, but that black life continues to be valued as less. Is there a history of that racial differential wage between poor whites and poor blacks or people of color?

S.S.: Yes, definitely. Class and poverty are real factors here, but they don’t erase the effects of race and racism, at least not in the United States and not in a lot of other countries with histories (and presents) of white domination. The challenge philosophically and personally is to keep all the relevant factors in play in thinking about these issues. In that complex tangle, you hit the nail on the head when you said that black life continues to be valued as less. Poor white people’s lives aren’t valued for much either, but at least in their case it seems that something went wrong, that there was something of potential value that was lost.

Let’s put it even more bluntly: America is fundamentally shaped by white domination, and as such it does not care about the lives of black people, period. It never has, it doesn’t now, and it makes me wonder about whether it ever will…

Read the entire article here.

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A Look at Looking Different

Posted in Articles, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-12-03 15:59Z by Steven

A Look at Looking Different

The New York Times
2014-12-02

Felicia R. Lee

‘Crossing Borders,’ at the Brooklyn Historical Society

Alexander David grew up with a Chinese mother and a white Jewish father in the liberal Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. He attended the predominantly Asian elite Stuyvesant High School. He was comfortable in his skin in both places, but in a world of tribes, the Asian kids considered him white, and the white ones considered him Asian.

“We’re not like a racially blind kind of society,” Mr. David said in an interview recently.

Mr. David’s experience is now part of an unusual project by the Brooklyn Historical Society called “Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations,” which has as its centerpiece a collection of more than 100 oral histories of people who identify themselves as being of mixed heritage, whether through race, ethnicity, religion or nationality.

Three years in the making, “Crossing Bridges” will be completed in mid-January and is uncommon in subject and scope for a historical society, said Annie Valk, vice president of the Oral History Association. It comes with public programs, a school curriculum and an interactive website

…About 30 of the oral histories are now gathered on the website, which includes photographs, audio clips, transcripts and scholarly articles. The full oral history collection will be available next year at the historical society’s Othmer Library, the repository of more than 1,200 oral history narratives on a variety of topics. In February, educators will also be offered a curriculum for grades six through 12.

All the oral history subjects were volunteers who live or work in Brooklyn, or did so in the past. They were a diverse flock, including biracial lesbian couples and Jewish couples from different European countries. Their stories reflect changes from the time when mixed marriage often meant spouses of different religions to a time when it means gay or interracial marriage, or both, said Sady Sullivan, the former director of oral history at the historical society. Ms. Sullivan, who conceived the project, has been named the curator of oral history at Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

“The idea I get really excited about is that this is for the future,” Ms. Sullivan said. “What will it be like to listen to stories about the social construction of race in 150 years?”…

…Championing multiracial families — including the struggle for the right to check more than one census box for race — has also had detractors. Some argue that multiracial identity only increases racial stratification. Others have argued that discussions about multiracial identity too often fail to examine how race is related to wealth and power.

Nitasha Tamar Sharma, an associate professor of African-American studies and Asian-American studies at Northwestern, wondered how the oral histories would be framed. “Is it going to be used only as a celebration?” asked Professor Sharma, who writes about and researches issues of racial identity…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama Plans Meetings on Ferguson Unrest at the White House

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-01 19:08Z by Steven

Obama Plans Meetings on Ferguson Unrest at the White House

The New York Times
2014-11-30

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, White House Reporter

WASHINGTON — President Obama is planning a day of meetings at the White House on Monday to respond to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and racially tinged anger across the country after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.

Mr. Obama, who has labored to strike the right balance in reacting to the crisis, has not scheduled a trip to Ferguson despite days of speculation about a presidential visit there.

But he will gather his cabinet on Monday to discuss the results of a review of federal programs that provide military-style equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. The initiatives were called into question in August, after the Ferguson police responded with riot gear and assault-style weapons to protests in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown, the teenager, by Officer Darren Wilson

…The president has faced a challenge in calibrating his response to the situation in Ferguson, working to balance the task of urging calm and unity with his desire, as America’s first black president, to acknowledge racial wounds — all while being careful not to interfere in the investigation…

Read the entire article here.

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In Northern Ireland, a Wave of Immigrants Is Met With Fists

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-11-29 23:42Z by Steven

In Northern Ireland, a Wave of Immigrants Is Met With Fists

The New York Times
2014-11-28

Douglas Dalby

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — More than 16 years after the Good Friday peace deal brought real hope that Protestants and Roman Catholics could live together in relative harmony, Northern Ireland is being racked by another wave of violence.

But this time it is not driven by the sectarian divide, but by animosity toward a fast-growing population of immigrants — adding one more challenge as Europe struggles to cope with the combination of intense economic strain and rapid demographic change.

“This is a society that always prides itself on being very friendly, but it is becoming less and less welcoming, particularly to certain types of people,” said Jayne Olorunda, 36, whose father was Nigerian, and though she grew up in Northern Ireland said her color has always marked her as an outsider.

The expanding problem appears to be partly racial and partly directed at immigrants of all backgrounds at a time when open borders in the European Union have led more legal migrants to Britain and Ireland in search of work. At the same time, war and economic deprivation have driven waves of legal and illegal migrants toward Europe from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The more recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and parts of Africa tell stories similar to those of people from China, India and Pakistan who have lived here for decades…

…The new wave of immigrants has certainly not brought safety in numbers.

“It’s my home, but I don’t feel like a very welcome resident,” said Ms. Olorunda, whose broad accent is pure Northern Ireland.

“When more people began to arrive I was excited at first,” she said, “but then the attacks began to move from verbal to physical and I began to think this isn’t a good thing, after all.”

Ms. Olorunda said she has endured a lifetime of racism and stays in Northern Ireland mainly to look after her mother, who she said never recovered from the loss of her husband. He died in 1980 when an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded on a train…

Read the entire article here.

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Most other mixed and biracial people I know have at least one secret or lie in their family, have at least one person who is choosing to pass or is passing and doesn’t even know it…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2014-11-25 17:20Z by Steven

“Most other mixed and biracial people I know have at least one secret or lie in their family, have at least one person who is choosing to pass or is passing and doesn’t even know it. That theme is so common. I have a half sister who didn’t know she was half black until she was 11. I’m interested in telling these stories because it is my family’s history…” —Amber Gray

Alexis Soloski, “Returning to an ‘Impossible’ Role,” The New York Times, April 24, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/theater/amber-gray-on-an-octoroon-at-soho-rep.html.

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A Secret Falls From the Family Tree, and a Girl’s Identity Branches Out

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-11-25 16:48Z by Steven

A Secret Falls From the Family Tree, and a Girl’s Identity Branches Out

The New York Times
2014-11-23

Ben Kenigsberg, Film Critic

‘Little White Lie,’ a Personal Documentary About Race

The documentary “Little White Lie” would be provocative simply for what it says about race and identity. The director Lacey Schwartz grew up Jewish in Woodstock, N.Y., yet something seemed off. Her peers would ask if she was adopted. At Ms. Schwartz’s bat mitzvah, a member of her synagogue assumed she was an Ethiopian Jew. Her family attributed her darker skin to a Sicilian great-grandfather. Only gradually did Ms. Schwartz, now 37, begin to suspect what might seem obvious to an outsider: that her biological father was black.

“Little White Lie” is, in part, the story of Ms. Schwartz’s evolving view of her background. As a child, she thought of herself as white and even wished for a lighter complexion. College changed that: Although she didn’t declare a race on her application, she says Georgetown considered her a black student based on a photograph. She was welcomed by the Black Student Alliance and began to experience the influence that race has on everyday life.

That shift in perspective might be startling enough, but the movie goes one step further by charting the effect that Ms. Schwartz’s transformation has on her family members and the awkward sense in which her embrace of a biracial identity might be seen as a repudiation of them. The film is a searing portrait of collective denial — a diagnosis from which Ms. Schwartz doesn’t exempt herself…

Read the entire review here.

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