Immigrants Stir New Life Into São Paulo’s Gritty Old Center

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2014-04-17 01:32Z by Steven

Immigrants Stir New Life Into São Paulo’s Gritty Old Center

The New York Times
2014-04-14

Simon Romero, Brazil Bureau Chief

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — For obvious reasons, many Paulistanos still consider this megacity’s decrepit old center a no-go zone.

Carjacking and kidnapping gangs prey on motorists at stoplights. Squatters control dozens of graffiti-splattered apartment buildings. Sinewy addicts roam through the streets smoking crack cocaine in broad daylight.

But slip into Jean Katumba’s cramped Internet cafe and a different picture emerges.

“They call this place ugly, but I see its beauty,” said Mr. Katumba, 37, who arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo just 11 months ago.

Trained as an engineer in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, he earns a living here in Baixada do Glicério, a crime-ridden district, renting computers to customers speaking a variety of languages, from Haitian Creole to Colombian-accented Spanish and the Lingala of his homeland.

“São Paulo means a great thing to me: opportunity,” he said.

An array of similar ventures started by immigrants is flourishing amid the grit of São Paulo’s old center, reflecting shifts in global immigration patterns. Reinforcing São Paulo’s status as Brazil’s premier global city, Asians, largely from China, Africans and Spanish-speaking Latin Americans are flowing in…

…São Paulo’s new immigration surge stands in contrast to previous waves. After the overthrow of Emperor Dom Pedro II in 1889, Brazil’s first Constitution as a republic promoted a policy of “branqueamento,” or whitening, of Brazilian society through European immigration, while prohibiting immigration from Africa and Asia, according to scholars…

Read the entire article here.

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“Only the News They Want to Print”: Mainstream Media and Critical Mixed-Race Studies

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-15 17:06Z by Steven

“Only the News They Want to Print”: Mainstream Media and Critical Mixed-Race Studies

Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies
Volume 1, Number 1 (2014-01-30)
pages 162-182
ISSN: 2325-4521

Rainier Spencer, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs; Professor of Afro-American Studies
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This essay lauds the publication of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies, then turns immediately to argue that the journal must focus itself on actively becoming the authoritative voice on mixed-race matters, while also speaking out against naive colorblindness and premature declarations of postraciality. This is crucial because the public receives its information on mixed-race identity from the mainstream media, which has a long historical record of inaccurate and damaging reporting on mixed race. Using the recent “Race Remixed” series in the New York Times as a contemporary example of this problem, the essay argues that it is imperative that mainstream media writers seek out and use scholarly input in the publication of their articles.

With the publication of this inaugural issue of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies, the field of study demarcated by the journal’s title takes a major leap forward both materially and symbolically. The material leap has to do with the fact that there is now an academic publication devoted expressly to the field of critical mixed-race studies, a single source to go to for the latest in mixed-race research. Even though the journal certainly cannot publish everything in this field, and scholars will still find themselves combing through libraries and the Internet for newly published work, my hope is that this journal will nonetheless become the unquestioned touchstone of mixed-race scholarship. The symbolic leap, on the other hand, while related to the material one, has to do with the intangible satisfaction that attends to having “made it,” so to speak. While there is no difference between the good scholarly work done immediately prior to the launching of the journal and the good scholarly work we find in the pages of this issue, there is nevertheless a gratifying sense that “we”—those of us who work and publish in this area—now have a journal to call home. The importance of this should not be minimized…

…One crucial observation to make about mixed-race identity work over the past twenty years is that even though there has been phenomenal growth and change in the work itself, non-scholarly reporting on mixed race has not kept pace with those advancements. While scholarly studies of mixed race have proliferated, creating both the academic field and now this journal, and while mixed-race identity work has become more and more sophisticated, the quality of media coverage has remained ossified. In fact, mainstream media analysis of mixed-race identity in the United States is generally no different whether one reads an article from 1994, 2000, 2006, or 2012. Given its outsize impact on the general public, the dominant media in the United States is in fact a hegemonic entity. Its coverage of mixed-race identity has crucial effects on attitudes, opinions, and even public policy; therefore, the accuracy of its reporting is critical. For this reason, dominant media representation of multiraciality will be my main focus in this article as I consider the challenges it presents to critical mixed-race studies…

…The specific details being reported aside, the deeper structural problem with mainstream media stories on the alleged postracial power of mixed-race identity or the supposed significance of changing racial demographics is that the information presented is often one-sided, simplistic, geared to a tabloid sensibility, and does not reflect the multiform ways that edifices of power have race embedded within them, whether visible or not. It is a matter of sensationalism taking precedence over serious analysis. David Roediger identifies this tendency of providing sensationalism without substance, noting that “often multiracial identities and immigration take center stage as examples of factors making race obsolete” and that “we are often told popularly that race and racism are on predictable tracks to extinction. But we are seldom told clear or consistent stories about why white supremacy will give way and how race will become a ‘social virus’ of the past.” Roediger’s words highlight the importance of unmasking this postracial aspiration for what it is: an effort to provide comfort to a nation that is unwilling to do the hard work required to deal effectively with centuries of entrenched racism and the resultant consequences…

Read the entire article here.

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Jane Bolin, the Country’s First Black Woman to Become a Judge, Is Dead at 98

Posted in Articles, Biography, Law, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-03-26 20:10Z by Steven

Jane Bolin, the Country’s First Black Woman to Become a Judge, Is Dead at 98

The New York Times
2007-01-10

Douglas Martin

Jane Bolin, whose appointment as a family court judge by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1939 made her the first black woman in the United States to become a judge, died on Monday in Queens. She was 98 and lived in Long Island City, Queens.

Her death was announced by her son, Yorke B. Mizelle.

Judge Bolin was the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association, and the first to work in the office of the New York City corporation counsel, the city’s legal department.

In January 1979, when Judge Bolin had reluctantly retired after 40 years as a judge, Constance Baker Motley, a black woman and a federal judge, called her a role model.

In her speech, Judge Motley said, “When I thereafter met you, I then knew how a lady judge should comport herself.”.

The “lady judge” was frequently in the news at the time of her appointment with accounts of her regal bearing, fashionable hats and pearls. But her achievements transcended being a shining example. As a family court judge, she ended the assignment of probation officers on the basis of race and the placement of children in child-care agencies on the basis of ethnic background.

Jane Matilda Bolin was born on April 11, 1908, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Her father, Gaius C. Bolin, was the son of an American Indian woman and an African-American man. Her mother, the former Matilda Emery, was a white Englishwoman…

Read the entire obituary here.

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Discovery Leads Yale to Revise a Chapter of Its Black History

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, United States on 2014-03-18 03:01Z by Steven

Discovery Leads Yale to Revise a Chapter of Its Black History

The New York Times
2014-03-28

Ariel Kaminer

On the campus of Yale University, Edward Bouchet has long been a venerated name. Hailed as the first African-American to graduate from Yale College, in 1874, he went on to be the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. (and only the sixth person nationwide to earn one in physics).

In recognition of the path he forged, Yale has convened seminars and lecture series in his name, bestowed the Bouchet Leadership Awards in Minority Graduate Education and hung an oil painting of him — a young man in formal attire, looking off with an expression of dignified purpose — in a prominent spot at the main library.

Mr. Bouchet’s accomplishments still inspire many young students. But it seems one of his distinctions actually belongs to someone else.

Newly uncovered records suggest that Yale awarded a bachelor’s degree to another African-American man almost two decades before Mr. Bouchet received his diploma.

That man, according to an article being published on Saturday by the Yale Alumni Magazine, was Richard Henry Green. Born in 1833 to a local bootmaker who helped found St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in New Haven, he sat for the entrance examination and was admitted in 1853. Undergraduates did not have majors in those days, so Mr. Green, along with his 100 or so classmates (in what was at the time America’s largest college), read history, philosophy, literature and the like. He lived at his family’s home but he appears to have been active in campus life, joining the literary society Brothers in Unity as well as the fraternity Sigma Delta…

…Edward Bouchet, who graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, was celebrated in his day as a pioneer. According to Judith Schiff, Yale’s chief research archivist, “a campus periodical at the time talks about him coming as the first — isn’t it wonderful that he’s here and we hope he can make a good record for his race.”

Far less, if anything, is known about how Mr. Green was viewed, or even how he viewed himself. “He certainly didn’t stand out as a landmark person,” Ms. Schiff said.

His school records make no note of his race. In the 1850 census, he is listed as “mulatto”; 10 years later, the census recorded him as black. His wife’s family was white, and that is how the 1870 census categorized him and his daughter…

Read the entire article here.

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New Contenders Emerge in Quest to Identify Yale’s First African-American Graduate

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-03-18 02:48Z by Steven

New Contenders Emerge in Quest to Identify Yale’s First African-American Graduate

The New York Times
2014-03-16

Ariel Kaminer

For Richard Henry Green, recently declared to have been Yale College’s first known African-American graduate, fame, or at least the certainty of his claim on history, was fleeting.

Just last month, an Americana specialist at the Swann Auction Galleries made public the discovery that Mr. Green, the son of a New Haven bootmaker, had attended Yale 17 years before Edward Bouchet, an 1874 graduate previously thought to have broken its color barrier. But while Mr. Bouchet spent a century and a half on that pedestal, his accomplishments praised with every honor, from academic symposiums to undergraduate fellowships to a portrait in Yale’s main library, the scant weeks since Mr. Green unseated him have brought nothing but new challengers.

According to an article in the journal Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, a man named Moses Simons may in fact have been the first undergraduate to break Yale’s color barrier. This possibility is remarkable not just because Mr. Simons graduated long before either of the two previous contenders — all the way back in 1809, when Thomas Jefferson was president — but because Mr. Simons is already celebrated for breaking an entirely different sort of barrier…

…The record of Mr. Simons’s trial includes references to him as “coloured,” and to the discomfort that he aroused in some “Southern gentlemen.” And the author of that trial record ended his account with a rant about keeping America free of “the African tinge.”

What’s more, a number of men in the Jewish, slave-owning Simons family of Charleston, S.C., were known to have fathered children of mixed race.

But as strongly as the trial record implies African ancestry, Dale Rosengarten, founding director of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston, cautioned that “unless you can actually know who the parents were, you don’t actually know.” She added: “If this man did have a dark complexion, darker than the average Caucasian, it’s possible that he had other admixtures.”…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Chinese, on the Inside’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-03-05 01:44Z by Steven

‘Chinese, on the Inside’

The New York Times
2014-03-03

Liz Mak, writer and multimedia producer
Oakland, California

Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand.

About a decade ago, Barbara Cough adopted two girls from China, Kimberly and Catie. Barbara and her partner, Marilyn Thomas, are raising the children in Portland, Me. I filmed the family last year when the girls (who are not biological sisters) were ages 9 and 11.

More than 80,000 girls have been adopted from China by Americans since 1991. In recent years, China has made adoptions by same-sex couples, already difficult, nearly impossible.

But at the time the girls were adopted, in 2003 and 2004, Barbara and Marilyn felt that adopting girls from China afforded them more protections as parents than domestic adoptions would have, given the complex rules around birth parents’ rights in America.

For Barbara, it was also a way to reconnect with her own history: her great-grandfather Daniel Cough was the first Chinese man in Maine to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Though Barbara’s generation is only one-eighth Chinese, the family members proudly identify with their cultural heritage…

Read the opinion piece and watch the video here.

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White Lies

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing on 2014-03-04 04:57Z by Steven

White Lies

The New York Times
Sunday Book Review
2014-02-27

Porochista Khakpour

‘Boy, Snow, Bird,’ by Helen Oyeyemi

Strange times, crowed too many wise and unwise men over the millenniums. But as the art critic Jerry Saltz wrote in New York magazine last fall, maybe we’re finally at a point where the strangeness of the times is matched by an ability to accept it. In defending the perplexing Kanye West video “Bound 2,” Saltz heralded this as an age of the New Uncanny. The all-American banal-bizarre spectacle of the video (synthetic sunsets; slow-motion galloping stallions; the nippleless ingénue) is “a freakish act of creation and destruction by appropriation,” what Saltz deems “part of a collective cultural fracturing.” Saltz is riffing on Freud’s description of the uncanny as “nothing new or alien, but something familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression.” But maybe we’re not as alienated as we once were, something that occurred to me when beholding another unapologetic, all-encompassing contradiction-celebration: the story-allegory and real-surreal gyre of Helen Oyeyemi’s gloriously unsettling new novel, “Boy, Snow, Bird.”

Oyeyemi is from Strange Times. Raised in Britain by Nigerian parents, the 29-year-old five-time novelist isn’t even affiliated with a single home anymore: London, New York, Berlin, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague — who knows where she is doing her thing at any given moment? For years I saw her as something of a literary mystic, reading her with a mixture of awe, confusion and delight, but only now do I feel that we’re at a place where we can properly receive her, and she’s ready for us too. With “Boy, Snow, Bird,” a culmination of a young life spent culling dreamscapes, Oyeyemi’s confidence is palpable — it’s clear that this is the book she’s been waiting for…

…As usual, the Oyeyemi foundation is located in her fairy-tale comfort zone — in the case of “Boy, Snow, Bird,” the fairy tale is “Snow White.” She uses the “skin as white as snow” ideal as the departure point for a cautionary tale on post-race ideology, racial limbos and the politics of passing. It feels less Disney or German folklore and more Donald Barthelme’s 1967 novella “Snow White,” in which the political and the social poke through the bones of a pretty children’s tale, alarming us with its critical cultural import.

Set in the 1950s, Oyeyemi’s novel opens on the Lower East Side of New York City, with a young white woman named Boy Novak running away from her violent rat-catcher father. She soon meets a widower, a jewelry craftsman and former history professor named Arturo Whitman, in Flax Hill, Mass. She marries Whitman and becomes obsessed by her new stepdaughter, Snow. “What was it about Snow?” Boy asks herself. Oyeyemi paints Snow as half virtual, half corporeal: “She was poised and sympathetic, like a girl who’d just come from the future but didn’t want to brag about it.” All seems well until Arturo and Boy have a daughter of their own, Bird, who is born undeniably “colored.” Whitman’s family members are light-skinned African-Americans who have been passing as white, and the revelation becomes a turning point. The Snow White bits take over, with the Wicked Stepmother and the mirror motifs, and the fairy tale rewrites itself in startling ways…

Read the entire review here.

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Where Is My Family on TV?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-02-11 04:33Z by Steven

Where Is My Family on TV?

The New York Times
2014-02-08

Jenna Wortham, Technology Reporter

One of my earliest memories is of sitting in an idling car with my mom and sister outside a convenience store in Virginia. Dad’s inside, buying cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets. Suddenly, a wild-eyed man appears at the driver-side window, yelling about white women and black men and how they don’t belong together. My mother goes feral, blocking his access to us. My father runs out, furious and swearing, before driving us away. I don’t remember what happened next, just a confusing and searing shame about the ugliness that the sight of my family could provoke.

I hadn’t thought about that in years. But it bubbled up last spring in response to the vitriolic reactions to a Cheerios commercial showing a family that echoed my own: black dad, white mom, mocha-skinned little girl with soft curly hair. The commercial was uploaded to YouTube, where it provoked such foul, overtly racist reactions that General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, decided to delete all of the comments. The memory bubbled up once again last weekend when the same family appeared in a second Cheerios commercial, just as mild and sweet-tempered, shown during the Super Bowl. That one, too, drew online criticism, if not as intense.

Sticks and stones, the saying goes, especially on the Internet. But the outpouring of disgust about an innocuous 30-second marketing spot may signal something deeper at work, a denial of the reality that the face of our nation is changing, and fast.

According to a 2012 Census Bureau report, mixed-race Americans, while still a small minority, are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country, driven by immigration and an uptick in intermarriage. Yet while there are some very public examples of seemingly stable mixed-race families — the de Blasios of New York or even Kim, Kanye and sweet baby Nori come to mind — they are remarkably absent from our screens. (Our biracial president does get his share of screen time, of course.)…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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Are You My Cousin?

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive on 2014-02-10 01:23Z by Steven

Are You My Cousin?

The New York Times
2014-01-31

A. J. Jacobs

I love my family, but I’m glad I don’t have to buy birthday presents for all my cousins. I’d be bankrupt within a week.

My family tree sprawls far and wide. It’s not even a tree, really. More like an Amazonian forest. At last count, it was up to nearly 75 million family members. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re on some far-flung branch of my tree, and if you aren’t, you probably will be soon. It’s not really my tree. It’s our tree.

The previously staid world of genealogy is in the midst of a controversial revolution. A handful of websites have turbocharged family trees with a collaborative, Wikipedia-like approach. You upload your family tree, and then you can merge your tree with another tree that has a cousin in common. After that, you merge and merge again. This creates vast webs with hundreds of thousands — or millions — of cousins by blood and marriage, provided you think the links are accurate. One site, Geni, has what it calls the World Family Tree, with about 75 million relatives in more than 160 countries and all seven continents, including Antarctica…

…My journey started a few months ago. I got an email from a stranger named Jules Feldman who lives on a kibbutz in Israel. He had read one of my books. He wrote: “We have in our database about 80,000 relatives of yours. You are an eighth cousin of my wife who, in my opinion, is a fine lady.” I’m also, he said, related to Karl Marx and several European aristocrats.

The email had a bit of a creepy National Security Agency privacy-invasion vibe. But it was also, in a strange way, profoundly comforting. There I was, alone in my office, connected to 80,000 other humans. In a world where extended families lose touch as they spread across time zones, this seemed remarkable…

…Last year, Yaniv Erlich, a fellow at the Whitehead Institute at M.I.T., presented preliminary results of his project FamiLinx, which uses Big Data from Geni’s tree to track the distribution of traits. His work has yielded a fascinating picture of human migration.

Second, a megatree might just make the world a kinder place. I notice that I feel more warmly about people I know are distant cousins. I recently figured out that I’m an 11th cousin four times removed of the TV personality Judge Judy Sheindlin. I’d always found her grating. But when I discovered our connection, I softened. She’s probably a sweetheart underneath the bluster.

That’s a trivial example, I know. But imagine how someone from the Ku Klux Klan might feel when he connects with his African-American relatives. They won’t be singing Kumbaya, but could it nudge him toward more tolerance? I hope so…

Read the entire article here.

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The Young White Faces of Slavery

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-02-06 13:33Z by Steven

The Young White Faces of Slavery

The New York Times
2014-01-30

Mary Niall Mitchell, Joseph Tregle Professor of Early American History
University of New Orleans

For Northern readers scanning the Jan. 30, 1864, issue of Harper’s Weekly for news from the South, a large engraving on page 69 brought the war home in an unexpected way. Drawn from a photograph, it featured eight recently freed slaves from Union-occupied New Orleans. At the back of the portrait stood three adults, Wilson Chinn, Mary Johnson and Robert Whitehead. In the foreground were five children — Charles Taylor, Rebecca Huger, Rosa Downs, Augusta Broujey and Isaac White — ranging in age from 7 to 11. Their gaze was trained on the camera, but in the context of the magazine, the effect was that they all seemed to be looking at the reader.

Instead of the coarse garments worn by most enslaved people in the South, they were well dressed, the men and boys in suits and Mary Johnson and the girls in dresses and petticoats. But it was not their attire that confounded readers. Rather, the pale skin and smooth hair of four of the children — Charles, Augusta, Rebecca and Rosa — overturned a different set of Northern expectations about the appearance of people enslaved in the South: that a person’s African-American heritage would always, somehow, be visible and that only “negroes” could be slaves. The caption beneath the group, like the portrait itself, was meant to provoke the armchair viewer’s unease: “Emancipated Slaves” it proclaimed, “White and Colored.”

It was no accident that the young “white” slaves resembled the children of the magazine’s white middle-class readership, which is to say Northern children who were far removed from the threat of enslavement, or so their parents liked to think. The sponsors of the group from New Orleans anticipated precisely the kind of effect such children might have on Northern middle-class readers. As “the offspring of white fathers through two or three generations,” the Harper’s Weekly editors explained, “they are as white, as intelligent, as docile, as most of our own children.”…

…Not surprisingly, the lightest-skinned children caused the most stir among Northern editors and audiences. The two lightest-skinned girls, Rebecca and Rosa, seemed to have the greatest appeal, judging from the large number of cartes de visite that survive of them. About Rebecca, Harper’s Weekly wrote: “to all appearance, she is perfectly white. Her complexion, hair, and features show not the slightest trace of negro blood.” With their fair skin and elegant dress, Rebecca and Rosa evoked for most viewers the “fancy girls” sold in the New Orleans slave market. The fate that awaited these girls as concubines to white men was clear to most viewers at the time. Their tender youth compelled Northerners to renew their commitment to the war and rescue girls like these…

Read the entire article here.

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