Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial by Ralina L. Joseph (review) [Ardizzone]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-10-29 00:25Z by Steven

Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial by Ralina L. Joseph (review) [Ardizzone]

African American Review
Volume 46, Number 4, Winter 2013
pages 787-790
DOI: 10.1353/afa.2013.0105

Heidi Ardizzone, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri

Joseph, Ralina L., Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012)

Ralina Joseph begins Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial with a personal story. Her own engagement with ongoing debates over identity, ancestry, authenticity, and race mirrored political and cultural shifts in perceptions of people of mixed ancestry at the time. As a college student in the 1990s, Joseph quickly embraced the term multiracial to describe her own “race story,” becoming a leader of Brown (University’s) Organization of Multi- and Biracial Students (BOMBS). Being multiracial became, she says, a “full blown preoccupation” (xv), resulting in her undergraduate thesis on cultural depictions of black-white women. Transcending Blackness continues this project, identifying two related images, the millennial mulatta, and the exceptional multiracial, which operate in a dialectic cultural relationship as a “two-sided stereotype” (5). Joseph defines both representations in relationship to blackness: Millennials are punished for their attempts to identify as black; exceptionals are rewarded for transcending blackness or even race itself. Rather than demonstrating that blackness might be embraced “in messy, hybridized, multiracial forms” in the cultural texts Joseph examines, blackness is the thing that “must be risen above, surpassed, or truly transcended” (4). However, Joseph also introduces a third potential option: multiracial blackness, identifying positively and simultaneously as mixed and as black or African American. While she embraces this option for herself and claims it as a dominant identity, the authors whose works she analyzes never display it in their fictional depictions of this black-unite figure. So multiracial blackness forms a third point in a now triangulated relationship that crosses the line between social experience and cultural representation.

Transcending Blackness follows a familiar literary and media studies format: The Preface, Introduction, and Conclusion bracket four chapters, each focusing on a particular genre, work, and multiracial or black-white female character. Joseph’s Introduction lays out her terms and framework, while providing a clear and concise history of people of mixed ancestry, of their treatment and categorization, and of the attitudes toward and circumstances of interracial unions. She also provides a selective trajectory of literary and media depictions of the black-white figure covering roughly a century prior to her target years of 1998-2008. This decade spans the first inclusion of the “pick one or more” option under the federal census’ racial categories, and the election of the first U.S. president who could have—but publically didn’t—exercise that option. Like the twenty years that preceded it, the 1998-2008 decade falls squarely in the overlapping postracial and postfeminist eras that Joseph identifies as key to understanding the shifting meaning of the representations of black-white women. However, her decade is a static one: Her chapters are not chronological, but organized around her analytic positioning of each text and character within her framework.

One result of this is that the four main chapters operate in some ways more as related essays than as an integrated argument. But there is a consistent analytical thread. In the first two chapters Joseph presents two examples of the new millennium mulatta to show “how blackness is cause and effect of sadness and pain for the multiracial African American figure.” The last two chapters then argue that for the exceptional multiracial “blackness is an irrelevant entity” (6). And the first chapter sets up Joseph’s argument, not just for the new millennium mulatta, but also for the absence of the multiracial blackness that Joseph is looking for but doesn’t find—at least not in the form in which she desires it to be…

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Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial. Ralina L. Joseph. [Cannon]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-07-11 06:58Z by Steven

Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial. Ralina L. Joseph. [Cannon]

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic LIterature of the United States
Volume 39, Issue 3 (Fall 2014)
pages 207-209
DOI: 10.1093/melus/mlu028

Sarita Cannon, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature
San Francisco State University

Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial. Ralina L. Joseph. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. 248 pages. $84.95 cloth; $23.95 paper.

Ralina L. Joseph’s timely book about representations of multiracial black women in popular culture makes a significant contribution to the growing field of critical mixed-race studies. Drawing on research in various fields, Joseph closely reads four texts produced between 1998 and 2008: Showtime’s television series The L Word (2004-09), Danzy Senna’s coming-of-age novel Caucasia (1998), Alison Swan’s independent film Mixing Nia (1998), and the reality competition show America’s Next Top Model (2003-present). Joseph examines representations of black mixed-race subjectivity in these texts through two tropes: the new millennium mulatta and the exceptional multiracial. These two very different archetypes of multiracial identity are nonetheless linked by a common desire to transcend blackness, a proposition that Joseph argues is deeply troubling in twenty-first-century America, where, although many proclaim that affirmative action is no longer necessary, structural inequalities between blacks and whites remain entrenched.

One of Joseph’s central claims in Transcending Blackness is that popular representations of black mixed-race women fall into one of two categories. The new millennium mulatta is, in many ways, a revision of the tragic mulatta figure, made popular in films such as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Imitation of Life (1959). According to Joseph, the new…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Beyond Biracial: When Blackness Is a Small, Nearly Invisible Fraction

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Work, United States on 2014-05-13 21:29Z by Steven

Beyond Biracial: When Blackness Is a Small, Nearly Invisible Fraction

The Root
2014-05-12

Jenée Desmond-Harris, Senior Staff Writer and White House Correspondent

In the past, these Americans would have been labeled “quadroons” or “octoroons.” Today their options are so much broader. What can they teach us about race in 2014 and in the future?

Stephanie Troutman, a 36-year-old professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., has a white mother and a black father. She has her own family’s racial elevator speech down to a single sentence: “I’m a mixed woman who has a child with a black man and a child with a white man.” Her 7-year-old son, Rex, is unambiguous when it comes to his racial identity and “very pro black,” even protesting when he’s described as merely “brown,” she says.

With her 11-year-old daughter, Melora—whose pale, golden-hued skin; light eyes; and long, copper-colored hair prompt strangers to ask if she’s “Mediterranean” or “Arab”—things aren’t as simple.

“For now I’ve told her that she’s a person of color. That’s the best way I can explain it. I want to take it away from black and white because those are weird options for her,” Troutman says. “But I always kind of knew that I’d have a kid who looked white, and I was right. When Melora was born, my friends were like, ‘How did her dad’s white hippie granola genes completely beat out your biracial genes?’ ”

Despite those biracial genes, Troutman realized as a teen that most people see her as “just light skinned” (in other words, black). That hit home one day in the mid-1990s when, in a classically tragic black-identity-forming moment, a Florida stranger yelled “nigger” at her from a passing car.

“At first I was like, ‘Damn, that’s kind of messed up. Who are they yelling at?’ And then I realized I was the only person on the street.”

Given the way she’s perceived, Troutman is “willing to talk about the biracial thing”—her own mixed heritage—in certain contexts, but most of the time, she says, “I don’t think there’s anything new or interesting about it.”

What is interesting to Troutman is the experience of her preteen daughter, who, if you’re doing the crude math, is one-quarter black. She’s the kind of person who would have been called a “quadroon” when that “one-drop rule“-inspired term appeared on census forms between about 1850 and 1920, alongside its also-retired relatives, “octoroon” (one-eighth black) and mulatto (one-half).

Of course, as Zebulon V. Miletsky, a visiting assistant professor of Africana studies at Stony Brook University whose research interests include the history of the mixed-race experience, explains, “A lot of times, the people who took the census would sort of guess those things.”…

…Attention to Americans who have both black- and white-identified parents peaked during what Miletsky calls the “biracial boom” of the 1990s. They found celebrity touchstones in the likes of Mariah Carey and Halle Berry; validation from support organizations; and—in the ultimate victory for those whose rallying cry was “Don’t put me in a box!“—the creation in 2000 of a new, multiracial census category. With that, says Ralina L. Joseph, author of Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial, came the fading of the “tragic mulatto” stereotype and the emergence of the “millennium mulatto,” along with an accompanying sense of legitimacy…

Read the entire article here.

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The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies inaugural issue is now available

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, History, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Philosophy, Social Science, United States on 2014-03-11 22:18Z by Steven

The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies inaugural issue is now available

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

Laura Kina, Associate Professor Art, Media and Design and Director Asian American Studies
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

G. Reginald Daniel, Professor of Sociology
University of California at Santa Barbaral


Saya Woolfalk, video still from “The Emphathics,” 2012.

The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies inaugural issue is now available. Volume 1, No. 1, 2014 “Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies” It has been a long journey from the publication of Maria Root’s groundbreaking and award-winning anthology Mixed People in America (1992) to the inauguration of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies. We would like to thank all of our contributors, volunteers, and editorial review board for their hard work and patience. We hope you enjoy this issue of the journal and find it an informative resource on the topic of mixed race identities and experiences.

G. Reginald Daniel, Editor in Chief

Laura Kina, Managing Editor

The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies (JCMRS) is a peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS). Launched in 2011, it is the first academic journal explicitly focused on Critical Mixed Race Studies. Sponsored by UC Santa Barbara’s Sociology Department, JCMRS is hosted on the eScholarship Repository, which is part of the eScholarship initiative of the California Digital Library.

Table of Contents

  • Front Matter
  • Cover Art
  • Table of Contents
  • Editor’s Note / Daniel, G. Reginald
  • Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies / Daniel, G. Reginald; Kina, Laura; Dariotis, Wei Ming; Fojas, Camilla
  • Appendix A: Publications from 1989 to 2004 / Riley, Steven F.
  • Appendix B: Publications from 2005 to 2013 / Riley, Steven F.

Articles

  • “Historical Origins of the One-Drop Racial Rule in the United States” / Jordan, Winthrop D. (Edited by Spickard, Paul)
  • “Reconsidering the Relationship Between New Mestizaje and New Multiraciality as Mixed-Race Identity Models / Turner, Jessie D.
  • “Critical Mixed Race Studies: New Directions in the Politics of Race and Representation / Jolivétte, Andrew J.
  • “‘Only the News They Want to Print': Mainstream Media and Critical Mixed-Race Studies” / Spencer, Rainier
  • “The Current State of Multiracial Discourse” / McKibbin, Molly Littlewood
  • “Slimy Subjects and Neoliberal Goods: Obama and the Children of Fanon” / McNeil, Daniel

Book Reviews

  • Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian Americans Identities / Crawford, Miki Ward
  • Ralina Joseph, Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial / Elam, Michele
  • Greg Carter, The United States of the United Races: A Utopian History of Racial Mixing / Mount, Guy Emerson
  • Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr., Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego / Schlund-Vials, Cathy J.

About the Contributors

  • About the Contributors
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Mixed Race America: Identities and Culture

Posted in Arts, Communications/Media Studies, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-02-26 22:12Z by Steven

Mixed Race America: Identities and Culture

Fifteenth Annual American Studies Conference
Macalester College
1600 Grand Avenue
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55105
2014-02-27 through 2014-02-28

Keynote Address
Thursday, 2014-02-27, 18:00-19:30 CST (Local Time)
Alexander G. Hill Ballroom
Kagin Commons, Macalester

Keynote Speakers:

Ralina L. Joseph, Associate Professor of Communication
University of Washington

Author of: Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial (Duke University Press, 2012).

Laura Kina, Associate Professor Art, Media and Design and Director Asian American Studies
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

Co-editor of: War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013).


Cover design by Ricardo Levins Morales

The American Studies Department at Macalester College is honored to host the 15th annual American Studies Conference, “Mixed Race America: Identities and Culture.”

Held every February during Black History Month, the conference brings renowned scholars to campus to present their work and engage with faculty, staff, students, alumni and Twin Cities residents. The conference seeks to highlight the links between scholarship, activism and civic engagement. Each year a different theme is selected based on pertinent issues.

The American Studies Department serves as the academic focal point for the study of race and ethnicity in a national and transnational framework.

For more information on the American Studies Department or this event, contact Kathie Scott at scott@macalester.edu.

For more information, click here. Read the program guide here.

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The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930 [Joseph Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2014-01-28 07:42Z by Steven

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930 [Joseph Review]

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
Published online: 2014-01-26
DOI: 10.1093/melus/mlt079

Ralina L. Joseph, Associate Professor of Communication
University of Washington

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930. Jolie A. Sheffer. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 2013. 248 pages. $72.00 cloth; $24.95 paper; $24.95 electronic.

Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century multiracial characters in US popular culture almost always have been dismissed by critics as tragic. They are the torn victims of race crossing whose inevitably dismal fates result from their race-infringing parents and are exacerbated by their own romantic adventures across racial lines. Mixed-race characters bear epithets such as the tragic mulatto, the half-caste, and the half-breed; their downfall is unchangeable presumably because of the incompatible white and minority bloods that flow within their veins. Stories about multiracial characters function in US culture as barometers of race relations. Tragic mixed-race tales illuminate the white nation’s pathological fear of the deepest and most permanent form of integration: miscegenation.

Jolie A. Sheffer warns that this is not the full story. In The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930, Sheffer imagines mixed-race subjects in turn-of-the-twentieth-century literature and their women of color (often mixed-race) authors as not just the embodiment of tragedy but the active agents of resistance and change. Sheffer writes that while stories of miscegenation and incest, which she terms racial romances, serve the function of “reveal[ing] a history of exploitation of racialized…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Transcending blackness: from the new millennium mulatta to the exceptional multiracial [Aspinal Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-10-15 02:23Z by Steven

Transcending blackness: from the new millennium mulatta to the exceptional multiracial [Aspinal Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 5, 2014
pages 850-851
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.831934

Peter J. Aspinall, Emeritus Reader in Population Health
University of Kent, UK

Transcending blackness: from the new millennium mulatta to the exceptional multiracial, by Ralina L. Joseph. Durham and London. Duke University Press. 2013.
xx+ 226 pp., (paperback). ISBN 978-0-8223-5292-1

This book is concerned with representations of mixed-race African American women, notably, the two categories into which fall the mainstream images of mixed-race blackness: the new millennium mulatta. exceedingly tragic, always divided, alone, and uncomfortable, and the exceptional multiracial, unifying, strikingly successful post-racial ideal. The analysed texts which form the main body of the book belong to the 1998-2008 era (following the debates about capture of the multiracial population in the 2000 US Census), a period during which representations crystallized into this two-sided stereotype. Both are rooted in a condemnation of blackness which is either implicit as where blackness is stigmatized through the presentation of tragic mulatta inevitability or explicit, where discarding the burden of blackness means arriving at a safely post-racial state. Both representations take place in the context of gendered and sexualized as well as racialized performances.

An in-depth approach is adopted in which four representative works are examined with regard to the textual nuances that construct the two stereotypes. Part 1 explores the new millennium mulatlas: the bad race girl’ in Jennifer Beals’s portrayal of Bette Porter on the cable television drama The L Word (2004-2008), in which Bette is mired in the tragic misfortune and destiny of the mulatta: and the ‘sad race girl’ in Danzy Senna’s novel ‘Caucasia‘ (1998), which investigates how Senna reinterprets the tragic mulatta heroine in her production of a new millennium mulatta representation. Race and gender arc the drivers that torture the protagonists who are unable to achieve the states of post-race and post-feminism. In part II, ‘The Exceptional Multiracial’. Joseph interrogates representations that develop the character of the racial-transforming mixed-race title character in Alison Swan’s independent film ‘Mixing Nia‘ (1998) and the racial-switching mixed-race contestant in an episode of Tyra Banks’s reality television show ‘America’s Next Top Model‘ (2005). These representations portray blackness as an irrelevant entity for the multiracial, something that can and should be transcended through racialized performances. Blackness, the cause of sadness and pain for the multiracial African American, must be erased or surpassed in order to reach a state of health or success.

These particular works were chosen by Joseph as they were ‘representations of this particular time period and particular subgenre of multiracial African American representations’ and are not isolated representations of mixed-race African Americans but representative texts. Indeed, she contends that contemporary black-white representations do not go beyond this binary, the idea that blackness is a deficit that black and multiracial people must overcome…

Read or purchase the review here.

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“Well, if you were to ask him. President Obama is black. He is African-American.”

Posted in Barack Obama, Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-07-14 16:55Z by Steven

Steve Scher: “What is President Obama?”

Ralina Joseph: “Well, if you were to ask him. President Obama is black. He is African-American.”

Steve Scher: “Yeah. When President Obama came out after the Trayvon Martin killing and he said, ‘My kids would have looked like Trayvon Martin if they had been boys.’… Let’s unpack all of the things that were being said there. What was he saying about his identity?”

Ralina Joseph: “So, this is a really interesting question. I think that he is identifying as black and in the way which we have seen President Obama identify publically it has been as black. He has also talked about his white family. He’s also famously referenced his mother from Kansas and his father from Kenya. But that has not precluded his identifying as African-American. I think that in real life that these identities are always together. They’re very much a part of each other. They’re fluidly understood. They’re simultaneous. And yet, when we understand race, we think about them in these really separate binaristic manners. So it makes sense to me that he identifies very much with Trayvon Martin’s family and also can talk about his white and Asian-American family, for example.”

Steve Scher, “Ralina Joseph discusses her book Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial,” Weekday with Steve Scher, KUOW.org Seattle, 94.9 FM. (April 15, 2013). http://cpa.ds.npr.org/kuow/audio/2013/04/WeekdayA20130415.mp3 (00:18:50-00:20:07).

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UW communication professor unveils new book about race

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-07-06 13:48Z by Steven

UW communication professor unveils new book about race

The Daily of the University of Washington
2013-02-07

LaVendrick Smith


Ralina Joseph discusses her book cover art at “Troubling the Family and Transcending Blackness” held at the UW bookstore.

Photo by Dario Nanbu

Race, reality, and pop culture collide in a new book written by one UW communication professor.

In “Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial,” Ralina Joseph, a UW associate professor of communication, explores how multiracial African Americans were represented in the 10 years leading up to President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Joseph held a joint book-signing and discussion about mixed-race relations with UW English professor Habiba Ibrahim at the U Book Store Feb. 7.

In “Transcending Blackness,” Joseph compares real-life depictions of multiracial African Americans to their roles in pop culture and politics.

“I’m just sort of interested in seeing how multiracial people have been and are represented,” she said.

Joseph, a multiracial African American herself, said that while researching the topic, she noticed a clear difference in the way multiracial people identify in real life and the way they are identified through the media.

“What I was seeing on TV, in movies, in novels, and memoirs, was not like the kind of complex people I knew in real life,” she said.

She said multiracial African Americans she encounters in real life have fluidity in the way they identify themselves, whereas she saw a constant need to identify mixed race in pop culture in a way that often degraded African Americans…

Read the entire article here.

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Guest: The fury over a Cheerios ad and an interracial family

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-25 04:16Z by Steven

Guest: The fury over a Cheerios ad and an interracial family

The Seattle Times
2013-06-24

Ralina Joseph, Associate Professor of Communication
University of Washington

The response to a Cheerios TV ad exposes American discomfort with interracial families, writes guest columnist Ralina Joseph

A RECENT Cheerios television ad has all of the elements that viewers usually glaze over because of their sheer ubiquity: a light-filled, eat-in kitchen with an attractive mother checking off tasks at the table, a button-down shirt and slacks-wearing father indulging in a quick after-work nap and a chubby-cheeked, curly-haired 6-year-old girl with a lisp.

But instead of disappearing into the ether, as TV spots tend to, this particular nuclear family advertisement has sparked such fury that Cheerios’ YouTube channel was forced to disable its comments section.

Why? Because the mother is white, the father is black, and the girl appears to be their biological, mixed-race child…

…Anti-miscegenation laws, on the books in some states in this country from 1661 to 1967, were justified by fear of such couplings and their result. In the 1930s, Washington state led the country in striking down attempts to ban interracial marriage…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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