White America’s Obama-era freakout: What research can tell us about racial animus since 2008

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-04-21 01:40Z by Steven

White America’s Obama-era freakout: What research can tell us about racial animus since 2008

Salon
2016-04-17

Sean McElwee

The election of America’s first black president somehow led even more conservative whites to change parties

Racism may be the single most important feature of contemporary American politics and the key to understanding the Obama Presidency. This is not to say that other things don’t matter: class, gender, religion, region all certainly affect political views. But if you want to understand the broad contours of American politics today, you need to examine race. Previously, I’ve argued that whites are rapidly leaving the Democratic Party because of racism. But in his new book, “Post-Racial or Most-Racial,” political scientist Michael Tesler makes a powerful argument that race has affected even seemingly non-racial parts of American society…

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“Brillo head,” “Don King,” “Sideshow Bob”: It took me years to embrace the hair that white people scorned

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-12-01 17:20Z by Steven

“Brillo head,” “Don King,” “Sideshow Bob”: It took me years to embrace the hair that white people scorned

Salon
2015-11-28

Sarah Enelow

Growing up, everyone thought they could “fix” my hair. I believed them, and paid the price.

I was 16 and had been in the bathroom for two hours working on my hair. My tools were scattered all over the sink: a brush with bent-up bristles, a dozen barrettes and ties clogged with clumps of my torn-out hair, a spray bottle of water, loads of leave-in conditioner, and various gels and serums for “damaged” hair with names like Frizz Be Gone.

That month’s Seventeen magazine lay open to a tutorial on creating an “effortless” up-do, modeled by a cheerful blonde, but what I saw in the small mirror hanging on a nail above the sink was an ungainly afro whose tight, wiry, dark brown curls had been ripped apart. My eyes were red from crying and my skinny arms were exhausted from being held above my head so long.

I shoved the butt of my hand into the mirror—it went pop as shards of glass fell into the sink and a thin stream of blood ran down my forearm. I got myself a Band-aid, cleaned up quietly, pulled my hair back into a low bun, and retreated to my room. If I left my hair in that bun long enough, it might be semi-straight when I took it out, so long as it never got wet again, but that wasn’t feasible. When I started growing my hair out around age 8, I didn’t realize I had to de-tangle it daily in the shower, so one morning I woke up with fat dreadlocks and had to get them cut out…

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“You get a cookie for being offended”: Mat Johnson on the fine art of racial satire

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-01 19:35Z by Steven

“You get a cookie for being offended”: Mat Johnson on the fine art of racial satire

Salon
2015-05-24

Laura Miller

The author of “Pym” talks about his new novel, his love-hate relationship with Twitter and being a black nerd

Mat Johnson is a little apprehensive about his new novel, “Loving Day,” a satire of race relations and identity politics set in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. While writing it, he thought, “people were going to be pissed off. Black people were going to be pissed off and white people were going to be pissed off, and they were all going to be pissed off for slightly different reasons.” That’s because Johnson’s narrator, Warren Duffy, is “mixed,” the child of a black mother and an Irish-American father; he identifies as black, but his light-colored skin often leads strangers to mistake him for white.

Warren — who has failed as a comics artist, comics store owner and husband — returns to Philly from Wales, where he’s been hiding out from the conundrum of his own identity. He comes back to sell the decrepit mansion he inherited from his recently deceased father, a partially roofless and entirely creepy 18th-century estate house looming over the surrounding ghetto, a defunct “artifact of rich white folks’ attempt at dynasty.” Once there, he discovers he has a teenage daughter, Tal, the result of a one-night stand with a Jewish classmate. Vowing to do right by her, Warren becomes entangled with the Mélange Center, an eccentric organization that runs a charter school for mixed-race people who want to claim multiple identities. Warren calls it “Mulattopia,” and suspects it of being a cult, but Tal does love that school.

Meanwhile, Warren has seen two strange figures darting around corners and into outbuildings on the grounds of his mansion by night. Tal thinks they’re the ghosts of the first interracial couple. Warren is sure they’re just crackheads. Since “Loving Day” is Johnson’s follow-up to his celebrated 2011 novel, “Pym” — a brazen fusion of academic satire and two-fisted Arctic adventure yarn — the truth is likely to be very strange indeed.

I spoke with Johnson recently about his membership in the tribe of black nerds, his love-hate relationship with Twitter and why humor is an indispensable tool when you’re writing about race…

Read the entire interview here.

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“There is nothing ‘black’ about rioting”: Actor Jesse Williams unloads on Baltimore critics in passionate Twitter essay

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-30 19:55Z by Steven

“There is nothing ‘black’ about rioting”: Actor Jesse Williams unloads on Baltimore critics in passionate Twitter essay

Salon
2015-04-28

Joanna Rothkopf, Assistant Editor


(Credit: DFree via Shutterstock)

The “Grey’s Anatomy” actor wrote about the prevelance of rioting throughout history

On Monday evening, as Baltimore was rocked by violent and nonviolent protests alike, actor Jesse Williams, known for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy” and for occasionally weighing in on issues of race and police brutality, wrote what amounted to an essay on the history of rioting.

Read the whole thing below:..

Read the entire article here.

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A real-life Lucious Lyon: The former slave who built a Beale Street “Empire” and transformed Memphis

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-09 01:27Z by Steven

A real-life Lucious Lyon: The former slave who built a Beale Street “Empire” and transformed Memphis

Salon
2015-04-04

Preston Lauterbach


Bob Church (Credit: University of Memphis Special Collections)

Memphis — and music as we know it — wouldn’t be the same without Robert Church’s legacy of vice, virtue and power

Depending on which critic or fan you ask, Fox TV’s “Empire” is somewhere between Shakespeare’s drama “King Lear” and Norman Lear’s campy “Good Times.” Less apparent to the show’s legions of viewers is how the story of Lucious Lyon and Empire Entertainment echoes the original black empire, a real-life dynasty of vice, virtue, and power, built in the heart of the old Confederacy just after the Civil War by a former slave who became monarch, Robert Church.

Like Lucious Lyon, who must plan for the future of his empire after being diagnosed with a crippling, often fatal, ailment, Bob Church had plenty of reasons to consider his legacy. It wasn’t so much that a specific death sentence loomed over Church—he just happened to find himself in life threatening situations, often. By his early 30s, Church had survived two gunshot wounds to his head, a steamboat disaster, a Civil War naval battle that he escaped by swimming the Mississippi River and an assassination attempt that backfired when a shotgun aimed at him exploded toward the shooter. Had Bob Church not been the combination of tough and lucky that saved him in these fateful scrapes, legendary Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, might be just another strip of concrete. Instead, it gained such an extraordinary reputation that Memphis entertainer Rufus Thomas would crack, “If you could be black on Beale Street one Saturday night, you’d never want to be white no more.”

Beale Street’s birth as an alternate universe for black America, a center of political clout and cultural fertility that changed America, all began with Church…

…Understanding the uncertainty of the vice-lord life in a hell-roaring river town, Church knew he must cultivate an heir. His eldest son Thomas lived in New York, passing for white, some have said. Thomas wouldn’t do. Eldest daughter Mary had become a steadfast leader in her own right, the first black woman on Washington, D.C.’s board of education and a founder of the NAACP. She could not be compromised. As with Lucious Lyon’s three sons, there was some competition among the Church children—they all would have liked to keep his money—but unlike “Empire’s” twisted succession plot, old man Church had no doubt who to choose: his youngest son, Robert Jr…

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“I was living in a racial closet”: Black filmmaker Lacey Schwartz on growing up white

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-03-26 18:47Z by Steven

“I was living in a racial closet”: Black filmmaker Lacey Schwartz on growing up white

Salon
Sunday, 2015-03-22

Marissa Charles


A photo of Lacey Schwartz and her mother, in “Little White Lie” (Credit: PBS)

Schwartz talks to Salon about race, privilege, family secrets and her new PBS documentary “Little White Lie”

For the first 18 years of her life Lacey Schwartz knew she was white. With her dark skin, curly hair and full lips, she was a nice Jewish girl from Woodstock, New York. And then — she wasn’t.

Twenty years ago, Schwartz applied to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and — even though she didn’t tick a box giving her racial identity — she was admitted as a black student. “I know some people looked at that situation and they think, ‘Why weren’t you outraged? Why wouldn’t you protest it?’” Schwartz, 38, said. But for the filmmaker, it was an opportunity to open herself up to something that deep down had been niggling her for most of her life, a question that became the the heart of her documentary “Little White Lie,” which airs Monday on PBS.

Ever since she was 5 years old, when a classmate demanded that she show him her gums, Schwartz knew she looked a bit different from everyone else in her very white town. But her parents, Peggy and Robert Schwartz, had an answer for that — a photo in their family album of her paternal ancestor, a dark-skinned Sicilian Jew. The real answer was far less complicated, buried underneath a lifetime of secrets and lies that helped spell the end of her parents’ marriage. (Spoiler alert: Schwartz is the result of an affair her mom had with an African-American family friend. She demanded answers from her mother when she was 18, but didn’t talk to her father about it until her mid-30s when she made the film.)

In “Little White Lie,” Schwartz confronts her family, exposing the secret and revealing how she has spent her adult years straddling two racial identities. We talked to Schwartz about ditching law for filmmaking and what it’s like to be black and white in America.

What made you want to become a filmmaker?

When I was in law school I started thinking about the issues that I wanted to work on and how film was an effective way to speak about the issues I cared about…

…Your story is like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” because it seems so obvious that you’re black, and yet everyone was saying that you were white. Growing up, when you looked at yourself in the mirror, did you ever have an inkling?

Absolutely. I saw my difference. It’s so crazy for me to find a picture of me when I was a kid and remember that I was so insecure about my hair and my skin and all those things. I definitely felt self-conscious of not being like everybody else that was around me…

…For you, what does it mean to be black?

I think it’s twofold. Part of it is about my own consciousness about being a person of color and being of the world and seeing things. I lived so much of my life having the outlook and thinking that I was white and being somewhat oblivious to the rest of the world, and so I think for me, it’s about gaining that consciousness of difference and really actually recognizing how other people see me.

Part of it’s also being part of the community and the connection. It’s shared experiences on a variety of different levels. When I got to college, that connection, realizing that — even though I hadn’t grown up identifying as being black — there were ways in which I really felt connected to being part of a community…

Read the entire interview here.

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Our real police/race problem: Diverse forces, white resentment, and America’s persistent divides

Posted in Articles, Economics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-03 22:22Z by Steven

Our real police/race problem: Diverse forces, white resentment, and America’s persistent divides

Salon
2015-01-02

Jim Sleeper

Why diverse police forces can’t seem to trump the economics of racism, or the twisted politics of white resentment

Nearly two decades before last month’s murders of New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu by a black man, the murder of a black NYPD officer, Charles Davis, anticipated claims we’re hearing that police-community problems aren’t really “black and white” and the only color that really counts is blue.

Yet the problems do remain “black and white” for reasons of economic exploitation and isolation that run deeper than race itself and that are gathering force, despite rising numbers of white/Asian and white/Hispanic marriages and of multiracial children, even in the families of police officers themselves. Unless we can face the reasons why more “diversity” in police ranks is a far-from-sufficient condition of justice, American society will remain more racist than many others, and thereby hangs my tale…

Read the entire article here.

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The “Dear White People” syndrome: Why movies are obsessed with light-skinned black characters

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-11-05 19:11Z by Steven

The “Dear White People” syndrome: Why movies are obsessed with light-skinned black characters

Salon
2014-10-23

Morgan Jerkins

This isn’t the first film to relegate dark-skinned actors to the sidelines — but it may be the most frustrating

For Princeton University’s recent Black Alumni Conference, an advance screening of “Dear White People” took place at the town’s Garden Theater, and I was one of many who could not wait to see it. Throughout the film, I could hear many black alums scoff at some of the micro-aggressions that we’ve all experienced and heard about, or laugh at all the things that we’ve all wanted to say in response to white people when these experiences occur but may have never had the gall to do so. The film is a bold attempt. But I could not help wondering why a light-skinned biracial woman was the lead female protagonist, the champion of civil rights on the fictitious Winchester University’s campus.

Frankly, as a light-skinned African-American female, I am tired of seeing women who look like myself presented as the epitome of complexity when it comes to setting forth the many different layers of the black experience for a mainstream audience. Yet we all know why this happens. A lighter-skinned black person is more marketable to an overwhelmingly white-dominated space. Not to mention, white appeal equals more marketability. The brown skin with a yellow undertone is the color “nearest [to] the light,” as Goethe once wrote, or in this case, to whiteness. White moviegoers want to see their reflections. Film is a form of escapism tinged with a dash of possibility from this perspective. A white character can be a villain or a hero while exemplifying a wide variety of emotions, and for a light-skinned black character with a name as equally “safe” as Samantha White, it all makes sense. She was able to show her radical and revolutionary side while effortlessly switching to her vulnerable side, via teary eyes, deliberate hesitations in speech, and even hairstyle changes to reflect her character development…

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I raised my sons to be racially neutral

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-19 22:47Z by Steven

I raised my sons to be racially neutral

Salon
2014-10-18

Terry Baker Mulligan

Two mixed-race boys, one lighter skinned than the other. Did I make a mistake telling them they were the same?

One Saturday night in St. Louis about decade ago my younger son, then a teen, was driving around town with two white friends. I’m black and my husband is white, so our two sons are biracial. This particular son has his father’s straight hair and aquiline nose. His skin is brown like mine.

The friend in the back seat behind my son stuck a paint pellet gun out the back window and shot a stop sign. He didn’t see two police cars parked just ahead. The cops hustled out of their squad cars and did the “Whoa, what the ‘F’ are you doing?” routine. The kids were taken to the police station, the gun was confiscated, and eventually all the parents were called to come to the station.

Back up about eight years. As a young family, we usually didn’t talk about race or even acknowledge it, because at the time we didn’t see the need. Then one night at the dinner table I got my first reality check when our younger boy, who was 7 at the time, said, “Dad, I want white skin and braces. And a new first name, like Michael.”…

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Is race genetic?

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-10-15 15:28Z by Steven

Is race genetic?

Salon
2014-10-12

Laura Miller

Advances in genealogy and DNA analysis tell surprising and disturbing stories about the heritage we think we know

A bestselling European novelist, while on a recent American book tour, was approached by a woman clutching a manilla folder. “We’re related!” she told him, opening the folder to reveal old black and white photos, documents and a family tree. She pointed to a dour-looking 19th-century lady posing stiffly in a black dress and explained that this was her great-great-grandmother, the novelist’s great-great-great-aunt.

He was kind and patient, but clearly no more than mildly interested in the materials she treasured. Maybe he had more relatives than he knew what to do with back home. Maybe the whole thing was too reminiscent of the years when his homeland was occupied by a foreign power pathologically obsessed with establishing “pure” lineages. Or maybe he just believes in looking forward rather than back. He had, after all, books to sign, cities to visit and even more books to write once he got back, and perhaps defining himself by a future he can shape seems a lot more appealing than dwelling on the past he can’t.

Many Europeans see genealogy as a peculiarly American preoccupation — and of course billions of people in places like China view it merely as a human one, the way we make sense of our place in the world. Christine Kenneally, an Australian journalist and the author of “The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures,” has talked to adherents of both sides and has a lot of ideas about “what gets passed on,” as she puts it. Where Kenneally comes from, the “bad blood” of convicts transported from Britain to the antipodes was once regarded as a cause for shame, something best not talked about by their descendants. No longer: she recalls working on a school project in which her classmates happily dug up convict ancestors to boast about.

A good bit of “The Invisible History of the Human Race” is devoted to defending genealogy and the desire to know one’s lineage. Apparently, many historians look down on the amateur penchant for tracing family trees; it is not research but “mesearch,” too small-picture, too personal to constitute true scholarship. To the layperson, disproving this canard (which Kenneally does neatly) hardly seems a battle that demands to be fought, but when Kenneally takes up the subject of DNA and race, she enters more hotly contested territory. What does it mean to link the slippery concept of race to the scientific study of genetics and the historical facts that constitute an individual’s ancestry?…

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. himself serves as an excellent example. He’s “black,” that is, African-American (as well as a professor of African-American Studies), although the aforementioned DNA analysis revealed that 60 percent of his genetic material is of European origin. Does this make him less black? Not on that infamous evening in 2009, when Gates was arrested by a white police officer in Cambridge, Massachusetts while attempting to enter his own house.

Yet what Gates learned about his genetic ancestry did change how he understood his identity, and he would later announce on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that he and the officer who arrested him share a common ancestor in the Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages. That’s the gist of much of the genealogy- and genetics-based programming that Gates has hosted for the Public Broadcasting Service, shows like “African American Lives” and “Finding Your Roots”: We are all more connected than we realize…

Read the entire article here.

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