One Drop of Love: A Multimedia Solo Performance on Racial Identity by Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni at University of Maryland

Posted in Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-03-29 20:00Z by Steven

One Drop of Love: A Multimedia Solo Performance on Racial Identity by Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni at University of Maryland

University of Maryland, College Park
The Stamp (Adele H. Stamp Student Union) [Directions]
Atrium Room
Friday, 2013-03-29, 17:00-19:30 EDT (Local Time)

Sponsored by the Multiracial Biracial Student Association (MBSA), Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy (MICA), The Asian American Literary Review, University of Maryland Asian American Studies Program, and Hamsa.

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Playwright, Producer, Actress, Educator

Jillian Pagan, Director

Q&A afterwards hosted by:

Steven F. Riley, Founder and Creator
www.MixedRaceStudies.org

One Drop of Love is a solo performance piece that journeys from Boston, Michigan, Los Angeles, and East & West Africa from 1790 to the present as a culturally Mixed woman explores the influence of the One Drop Rule on her family and society.


Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni. ©2103, Evan Tamayo

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni is a leading activist concerning mixed race, and is an actor, comedian, producer and educator. One Drop of Love is her MFA thesis, and she will be using footage from her performances to make a documentary.

Admission is free.


Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni and Steven F. Riley. ©2012, Laura Kina

Ms. Cox DiGiovanni appeared in the 2013 Academy Award and Golden Globe winning film Argo (2012); co-created, co-produced and co-hosted the award-winning weekly podcast Mixed Chicks Chat (2007-2012); and co-founded and produced the annual Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival® (2008-20012). For more on Ms. Cox DiGiovanni and One Drop of Love, visit: http://www.onedropoflove.org.

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The Chowan Discovery Group: Documenting the Mixed-Race History of North Carolina’s “Winton Triangle”

Posted in Articles, History, Native Americans/First Nation, New Media, United States on 2013-03-20 21:53Z by Steven

The Chowan Discovery Group: Documenting the Mixed-Race History of North Carolina’s “Winton Triangle”

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners
2013-03-20

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

Here’s another region of the South with a fascinating history of mixed-race ancestry. I discovered the Chowan Discovery Group after Steven Riley, creator and moderator of MixedRaceStudies.org, introduced me via email to the Group’s Executive Director, Marvin T. Jones. The “Winton Triangle,” located in Hertford County, North Carolina, encompasses the three towns of Winton, Cofield, and Ahoskie. Here, people maintain a distinctive identity rooted in Native American, European, and African ancestry.

According to Marvin Jones, the Triangle traces its origins to before the 1584 arrival of the English to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where Chowanoke (Choanoac) Indian settlements were prominent along the Chowan River. After the English invasion, diseases (to which Native Americans lacked immunity) and territorial disputes decimated and disrupted the Chowanoke settlements of present-day Hertford County…

Read the entire article here.

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While multiracial identities give the appearance of a deconstruction of a social order based on race, I suggest otherwise.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, My Articles/Point of View/Activities on 2013-03-20 03:47Z by Steven

While multiracial identities give the appearance of a deconstruction of a social order based on race, I suggest otherwise. For example, many multiracial Americans of African/European descent understandably attempt to claim and reassert their non-African ancestry; reminding us how they are “a little French, a little Scottish, Italian, etc.,” few of us stop to ponder the near utter destruction of their African ancestry and how it has-even with the inclusion of European ancestry-been reduced to “black.”  While some may embrace a “Black/White” identity, I ask where are the “Luba/Lithuanians,” “Shona/Scottish,” “Ewe/Estonians,” “Igbo/Icelanders?”  It used to be our identities told us and others, where we came from, what we did, how we hunted, how we gathered our food, where we pressed our wine, how we made cheese, when we planted, how we worshiped, and how we lived.  Only a few seem to know or notice these nearly infinite identities (even from Europe) have been reduced through the centuries by the onslaught of white supremacy to just a handful of exploitable commoditized categories. We think we can manipulate the morally corrupt framework of “race” into a modern utopia, but even the so-called “new” hybrid identities may be reabsorbed or discarded back into the oppressive essentialist elements.

Steven F. Riley, “Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience,” (paper presented at the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, Los Angeles, California, June 11, 2011).

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Demographic Demagoguery: Gregory Rodriguez’s views on race and the census just don’t add up

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-16 18:15Z by Steven

Demographic Demagoguery: Gregory Rodriguez’s views on race and the census just don’t add up

MixedRaceStudies.org
2011-04-08

Steven F. Riley

Gregory Rodriguez’s editorial titled “President Obama: Black and more so” or “President Obama: At odds with clear demographic trends toward multiracial pride” in the April 4, 2011 edition of the Los Angeles Times reveals the destructive hubris that can occur when one mixes historical amnesia, cultural insensitivity, a misinterpretation of demographic information and plain ignorance into an essay about the complexities of race in the United States.

Rather than demand that our first black President, Mr. Obama provide the nation with a “teaching moment,” perhaps Mr. Rodriguez should head back to his schoolbooks for a learning moment.  There, he may learn that so-called “racial mixing”—via coercion and consent—has been occurring in the Americas for over 500 years.  Thus we are not entering a multiracial era, we have always been multiracial. He may also learn that ‘race’ is a social, not biological construct; originally designed for the commoditization, exploitation, oppression and near extermination of African, indigenous (and later Asian) populations. Race is an evolving convention that is constantly being constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed to preserve the hegemony of those holding social and political power in the United States. Our decennial census is a tool that helps us measure our social interactions on the ground; not our dead ancestors in the ground.

Far from “bucking a trend,” the President is in fact part of the overwhelming majority of persons of mixed ancestry who proudly checked ‘black’ and only ‘black’ as their social identity on the 2010 Census. The trend is clear. This group, which is the most populous segment of the mixed-race population in the United States, is commonly referred to as African American. Mr. Rodriguez may also learn—without the aid of geneticists—that in addition to the vast majority of the nearly 39 million black Americans in this country, an even greater number of white Americans are of mixed ancestry—be it first, second, third, or any distant generation.  I find it puzzling that Mr. Rodriguez would violate one the tenets of the multiracial identity movement, by criticizing the President for exercising his freedom to choose a monoracial identity and at the same time, give his wife, the First Lady Michelle Obama—despite her known ancestral heterogeneity—(pardon the pun) a pass.  Even more puzzling is why many in the multiracial identity movement insist that President Obama embrace them because his mixed ancestry, while they simultaneously deny the very same mixed-ness of those on the ‘black’ side of Rodriguez’s so-called “racial divide.”

Mr. Rodriguez joins the chorus of commentators heralding a significant demographic shift due to a large percentage increase in the small number of people identifying as more than one race. But any first-year student of statistics will tell you that small changes can have large effects on small populations.  The 134% increase (since the 2000 Census) in the population of those who identified as both black and white is no more significant than the 118% percent increase in the black population of South Dakota!  Thus when we superimpose the 32% percent increase in the mix-race population to the nation as a whole, the percentage moves from 2.4% to only 2.9%.  Though 2000 was the first year that Americans could identify themselves as being of more than one race, it was not by any stretch, the first year that Americans were enumerated as such.  Another learning moment for Mr. Rodriguez would reveal that as far back as 1850, the census counted mulattoes (black/white) individuals.  In fact, in 1890 the categories quadroon (1/4th black) and octoroon (1/8th black) would make a one-time appearance.  The mulatto category would disappear in the 1900 census; reappear in 1910 and 1920. After 1920, this “emerging demographic trend” would come to a sudden end.

While some writers may write glowing articles about—for example—a 70% increase in the number of people checking two or more races in Mississippi (from 0.74% in 2000 to 1.15% in 2010), and how they are supposedly leading to “the softening of racial lines,” as Mr. Rodriguez puts it, a deeper interrogation actually reveals the continuing persistence of racial lines.  What you will not hear from the likes of Mr. Rodriguez is the fact that Mississippi has the lowest percentage of people checking two or more races while ironically—and not surprisingly due to its tortured racial past—at the same time, having the greatest potential for racial mixing because it is the state with the lowest white to black ratio in the nation.

Lastly, though our first comparative decennial examination of self-identified multiracial census data does indeed reveal an increase the number of individuals willing to identify as two or more races, what will censuses of future decades tell us about the identities of the children of today’s mixed-race population?  Will they identify as mixed? Will they, as some sociologists suggest, choose to identify as “traditional” racialized identities?  Will they occupy the middle or upper rungs of a Latin American-styled pigmentocracy? Or, will they transcend racialized identities altogether?  The mixed-race population may at some point in the distant future, become the fastest declining population in the United States. Mr. Rodriguez makes no attempt whatsoever to answer these questions and no attempt to envision what our society will look like if any of these scenarios come to fruition.  Rather than project his frustrations about America’s inability to enter the realm of post-raciality on President Obama, and his decision to check a single check box, perhaps Mr. Rodriguez could take a closer look at the racial attitudes of America, and while he’s at it, himself.

©2011, Steven F. Riley

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Biracial versus black: Thought leaders weigh in on the meaning of President Obama’s biracial heritage

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-03-16 16:46Z by Steven

Biracial versus black: Thought leaders weigh in on the meaning of President Obama’s biracial heritage

theGrio
NBC News
2012-11-19

Patrice Peck

“If I’m lucky enough to have children, I won’t tell them that Barack Obama was America’s first black president.”
 
Thus began columnist Clinton Yates’ piece, “Barack Obama: Let’s not forget that he’s America’s first bi-racial president”. Published on The Washington Post website two days after the 2012 election, Yates’ piece explores the notion that singling out President Obama’s African heritage alone has resulted in an incomplete narrative of his identity.

“As a black man who plans to eventually start a family with my white girlfriend, I’m going to tell [my future children] that Obama was the first man of color in the White House and that America’s 44th president was biracial,” writes Yates. “What would I look like telling my kids that a man with a black father and a white mother is ‘black’ just because society wants him to be?” Yates’ stance on President Obama’s racial identity points to an on-going, complicated debate surrounding the president’s race and how he chooses to identify himself.
 
Since Obama’s second presidential election win, countless media outlets have analyzed the major support in voter turnout exhibited by African-Americans and Latinos for the president. At the same time, an overwhelming amount of racist backlash surged on Twitter for several days, signaling the fact that, for better or for worse, race will likely always be a predominant element to consider during Obama’s term as president.
 
Yet, most reports on and reactions to President Obama have failed to mention his biracial heritage. It is rarely addressed in discussions concerning how the public identifies Obama, or critiques of how the president identifies himself. Yates’ consideration of Obama as the “first bi-racial president” is rare in its vociferous proclamation to define the man by both lineages.

To widen this limited discourse, we asked some of the nation’s leading authorities on biracial and multi-racial issues to share their thoughts on the president’s self-identification as black, and the possible stakes of not addressing his bi-racial identity more directly. These leaders offer interesting and at times surprising perspectives on what it means to have not only a black man, but also a biracial man in the White House.
 
Here is what they told theGrio about this historic first. How do you think President Obama’s bi-racial ancestry influences the nature of his presidency?

Steven F. Riley, founder of MixedRacesStudies.org
 
In the paper “Barack, Blackness, Borders and Beyond: Exploring Obama’s Racial Identity Today as a Means of Transcending Race Tomorrow,” I explained that the president is black for three different reasons. I used a sociological framework, an ethnological framework, and a psychological framework. Number one, I say he’s black because he says he is. Number two, his heterogeneity, or his mixed background, is no different from people who are black. And then lastly, I say he’s black because he looks black, from a sociological viewpoint…

Yaba Blay, author of (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race and artistic director of the multiplatform (1)ne Drop project
 
Everyone seems to be negating President Barack Obama’s own story. The man himself has said publicly in print that, yes, his mother is white; yes, he is technically bi-racial, mixed race, whatever the language is people choose to use, but in this racialized society he is seen as a black man. And for that reason he identifies as black

Andrew Jolivétte, Associate Professor at San Francisco State University and editor of Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for the New American Majority
 
For mixed people, being mixed you identify differently at different times and in different situations. I think the president is no different, so [a bi-racial] child still can take pride in [the fact] that President Obama is a bi-racial president. But he’s also a black president. I don’t think that they’re mutually exclusive. And that’s what happens often in politics when it comes to policy, that it has to be one or the other, not some sort of combination of policies that can be good. Because he’s bi-racial and always compromising and trying to find the balance between two different identities, I think he tries to do the same things in terms of his policy…

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Professor of Ethnic Studies at Stanford University and author of When Half is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities
 
I think his identifying [as African-American] is very positive. On the other hand, I think there’s nothing creative or innovative or groundbreaking or revolutionary about [his identifying as black.] It’s very much following the status quo of the way that a majority of people expect him to identify… I personally didn’t have a lot of expectations about his ability to really go beyond what would be the mainstream position in terms of how he labeled and located himself. I have hopes that he might help us to go beyond these kinds of rigid racial classifications and categories. I think he could do that if he was able to identify himself more openly with all the different parts of his heritage…

Read the entire article here.

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The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White [Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2013-02-13 15:30Z by Steven

Daniel J. Sharfstein. The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. 415 pp. Hardcover ISBN: 9781594202827.

Steven F. Riley
2011-02-28

“This is the decade of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama, where we talked about race combinations,” Robert Groves, director of the federal agency, said about forthcoming 2010 Census data in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt”. “I can’t wait to see the pattern of responses on multiple races. That’ll be a neat indicator to watch.”

The Toronto Star
December 13, 2010

While it is tempting to be as excited as Mr. Groves is in waiting for the census results of the racial makeup of the United States, I would suggest that the so-called “race combinations” that he speaks of have been occurring for quite some time. Much has been written in recent years about the “changing face” of America that foretells that we will become a “mixed-race” country, or as Marcia A. Dawkins states, a “Miscege-Nation.”  Yet, this is not wholly true, for we are not becoming a multiracial society, we already are a multiracial society.  We have been multiracial not for years, or even decades, but for centuries.

So while many may proclaim that an increasing number of self-identified mixed-race individuals will usher in a new era of racial reconciliation, we are fortunate to benefit from the excellent scholarship of Daniel J. Sharfstein, Associate Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University, who points out to us that racial mixture is as old as the nation and it has not—in and by itself—led to racial reconciliation.  In fact, his portrayal of three families over a span of three centuries in his new book The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White, shows that under the specter of white supremacy, racial mixture was—and may still be—a way-station on the road to a white racial identity.  These racial journeys occurred so frequently in American history they should be considered one of  the great mass movements of people such as the settlement of North America, the westward expansion, and immigration. Furthermore, these journeys from black to white did not necessarily involve a change of venue, but could occur in the same community over a generation or more.

Unlike the stories of the Hemmings and Hairstons that explore the white roots of black families, The Invisible Line is an important work that explores the “black” roots of white familes. Though “race” as we know it today is a social—not biological—construct,  Sharfstein reminds us that it was and still is a very salient social construct.  In fact, for the families portrayed in the book, “race” becomes a form of wealth/property, obtained (by “passing” if necessary) and inherited by future generations.  In The Invisible Line, Sharfstein avoids casting a pejorative gaze upon these “passers” and their occasional accusers and instead casts blame squarely on the shoulders white supremacy.  Early in the introduction, Sharfstein points out that…

African Americans began to migrate from black to white as soon as slaves arrived on American shores.  In seventeenth-century Virginia, social distinctions such as class and race were fluid, but the consequences of being black or white were enormous.  It often meant the difference between slavery and freedom, poverty and prosperity, persecution and power.  Even so, dozens of European women had children by African men, and together they established the first free black communities in the colonies.  With every incentive to become white—it would give them better land and jobs, lower taxes, and less risk of being enslaved—many free blacks assimilated into white communities over time…

After researching hundreds of families, court cases, government records, histories, scholarly works, newspaper accounts, memoirs and family papers, Sharfstein chose to focus on three families: the Gibsons, the Spencers and the Walls.  Each of these families left the bondage of slavery and took different trajectories on the path towards a white identity.

The Gibsons

The Gibson story begins in 1672 in colonial Virginia when a free woman named Elizabeth Chavis successfully sued for the freedom of a boy of color named Gibson Gibson… who was also her son. In a reversal of English law where the status of the child followed that of the father, the colonies in a bid to codify slavery enacted laws that set the status of the child to follow the mother, or as the saying went, “birth follows the belly.” Contrary to popular belief, the laws did little to restrict interracial unions—especially between white men and black women—but rather, channeled these unions for the benefit of the institution of slavery. For Gibby Gibson and his brother Hubbard, harsh laws against people of color encouraged them to marry whites. Sharfstein states:

Whites in the family gave their spouses and children stronger claims to freedom and had immediate economic advantages—while black women were subject to heavy taxes, white women were not.  Increasingly harsh laws did not separate Africans and Europeans.  To the contrary, they spurred some people of African descent to try to escape their classification.

The Gibsons took what I shall describe as a fast-track to whiteness.  After Gibby Gibson’s freedom he and his brother spent the next 50 years amassing land and, yes… slaves.  After moving to South Carolina in the 1730s as planters they were granted hundreds of acres. By the time of the Civil War they were part of the Southern aristocracy.  Two brothers, Randall Lee and Hart Gibson, again took the spotlight and became standout students at Yale University and later ,officers in the Confederate Army.  Randall was promoted to brigadier general in 1864.  Despite the Confederate defeat at the end of the war, Randall would be a successful New Orleans lawyer, a founder of Tulane University, and would eventually be elected to represent Louisiana for four terms in the House of Representatives and for nine years in the U.S. Senate.

Randall Gibson’s white identity went unchallenged until January 27, 1877, when James Madison Wells wrote in an article that, “This colored Democratic Representative seems to claim a right to assail the white race because he feels boastingly proud of the commingling of the African with Caucasian blood in his veins.”  This accusation was grounds for libel, but Gibson did not sue Wells.  He did not need to.  As Sharfstein deftly points out frequently throughout the Invisible Line, white communities were very much aware of “mixture in their midst,” yet chose to believe these individuals were white.  Even if a person believed that his or her whiteness was secure, accusing ones neighbor of being black could have unintended consequences, especially if your children had offspring with the neighbor.  “Race” became a socially agreed upon arrangement.   Thus, as Sharfstein wrote in a 2007 article:

“…the one-drop rule did not, as many have suggested, make all mixed-race people black. From the beginning, African Americans assimilated into white communities across the South. Often, becoming white did not require the deception normally associated with racial “passing”; whites knew that certain people were different and let them cross the color line anyway. These communities were not islands of racial tolerance. They could be as committed to slavery, segregation, and white supremacy as anywhere else, and so could their newest members—it was one of the things that made them white. The history of the color line is one in which people have lived quite comfortably with contradiction.”

Yet this contradiction was not the same of acceptance, especially in Louisiana, where Sharfstein says…

“the existence of a large, traditionally free mixed-race class meant that whites had long competed with people of color for jobs, land, and status…  …On the streets of New Orleans, it was famously difficult to distinguish one race from the other at a glance—many whites were dark, and many blacks were light.  Every day people witnessed the color line bending and breaking.  The result was that whites believed all the more deeply in their racial supremacy.  They organized their entire political life around it…. …Believing in racial difference—enough to kill for it—was what kept whites separate from blacks.  For white Louisianans, knowing that blacks could look like them did not discount the importance of blood purity.  Rather, they were as likely as anyone in the South to consider a person with traceable African ancestry, no matter how remote, to be black.  The porous nature of the color line required eternal vigilance.”

The Spencers

The Spencers took an inconspicuous path towards a white identity.  George Freeman, possibly the son of his owner Joseph Spencer, was emancipated at twenty-four years of age around 1814 in Clay County, Kentucky.  Through hard work and a large family, Freeman was able to raise a profitable farm, enough so that he could provide loans to other farmers.  By 1840, Freeman’s wife had died, but by then eleven people lived with him including his grown daughters with children of their own.  In 1841, the  Freeman farm would make room for another resident; a twenty-five year-old pioneer white woman from South Carolina named Clarissa “Clarsy” Centers, who was pregnant with his child.  Freeman and Centers were not married, and could not if they had wanted to because of Kentucky’s anti-miscegenation laws.  Sharfstein points out:

“Freeman and Centers were not the only ones in Clay County breaching the color line.  Several free black women were living with white men.  It was less common, however for black men to have families with white women, and their relationships were perceived as a far greater threat to the social and racial order.  After all, the mixed-race children of black women, more often than not, [became] pieces of property, markers of wealth, for their owners.  But the children of slave men and white women were free under Kentucky law, and they blurred the physical distinctions that made racial status conceivable and enforceable.  As a result, all such relationships were subversive, even those involving free men.

Moreover, the control that white men had over their families, something that approached ownership under the law, helped maintain the idea that all white men were equal citizens in a country increasingly stratified by wealth…  …That control was undermined when white women had children with black men…

At the same time white communities did not always respond to these relationships with reflexive deadly violence.  They were capable of tolerating difference or pretending it did not exist.  Across the South in the early decades of the nineteenth century, black men and white women were forming families and living in peace.”

In 1845, George Freeman and Clarsy Centers’ daughter Malinda was pregnant by Jordan Spencer, Freeman’s son or brother.  After three years and three children, Jordan and Malinda’s family was part of a clan of twenty people within three generations living on fifty acres on Freeman’s farm; that was to small to sustain them all.

By 1855, Freeman was dead, forced to mortgage his farm to fight a fornication charge because he could not marry Clarsy Centers. The family of Jordan and Malinda was forced to move 100 miles away within rural Johnson County, Kentucky.  When they got there they called themselves Jordan and Malinda Spencer and their new neighbors welcomed them into their community… and called them white. As Sharfstein states:

“In Johnson County and elsewhere, being white did not require exclusively European ancestry.  Many whites did not hesitate to claim Native American decent.  While Melungeons in Tennessee often lived apart and married among themselves, the Collins and Ratliff families in Johnson County were considerably less isolated.  Half of the worshippers at the Rockhouse Methodist meeting had white faces, and light and dark families were neighbors along the nearby creeks.  Many of the families themselves were mixed, like Jordan and Malinda Spencer’s.  Their community offered them a path to assimilation.  Although the Spencers were listed as “mulatto” in the 1860 census, dozens of Collins and Ratliff men and women were, at a glance, regarded as white.  Jordan Spencer may have been dark, but there was such a thing as a dark white man.”

The Walls

For the Wall family, the path to becoming white was a reluctant and painful one.  Orindatus Simon Bolivar (O.S.B.) Wall and his siblings were freed by their owner (and father) in the 1830s and 1840s and sent from their plantation in North Carolina to be raised by radical Quakers in Ohio.  O.S.B. Wall eventually ended up in Oberlin, Ohio.  With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, slave catchers could now demand assistance from federal and local officials in any state (including free-states) in locating and apprehending runaway slaves.  Sharfstein notes that,

“The act also permitted slave-owners to kidnap people and force them into federal court.  After a short hearing, a commissioner would determine the status of the person in custody.  Commissioners were paid ten dollars upon ruling that a person was a slave, but only five dollars if they determined that he or she was free.”

Thus even free and freed blacks lived in constant fear that they and their families could be kidnapped and enslaved.  Fortunately, there was no place more hostile to slave catchers than Oberlin.  A generation earlier, New England Puritans had built the college and the town in the northern Ohio forest, dedicating themselves to bringing “our perishing world… under the entire influence of the blessed gospel of peace.”  Oberlin Collegiate Institute, founded in 1832 was a school that educated both sexes and within three years took the then-radical step of admitting students “irrespective of color.” Oberlin did not just give blacks the opportunity to do business on equal terms with whites—it offered blacks the unheard-of possibility of real political power.   In 1857 the town voted John Mercer Langston to be its clerk and appointed him a manager of the public schools.  He was the first black elected official in the United States.

After the end of the Civil War, Wall was detached to South Carolina to the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands, a new federal agency devoted to integrating former slaves into civil society, (otherwise known as the Freedman’s Bureau.)  His hope was “to do justice to freedmen” while “do[ing] no injustice to white persons.”  It would appear that his hopes would become a reality in the fall of 1865 when the Bureau had begun redistributing thousands of acres of confiscated property to freed-people, but President Andrew Johnson ordered almost all the land returned to its previous owners.  By the fall of 1865 former slaves found themselves no better than indentured servants.  As the hope of Reconstruction began to fade, he realized that to serve the righteous cause, he would need more than a title and a responsibility, more than the sanction of law.  He needed power. Wall would move to Washington D.C. 

By 1877 Federal troops had abandoned the South, and as Sharfstein writes:

“Democrats had carte blanche to ‘encourage violence and crime, elevate to office the men whose hands are reddest with innocent blood; force the Negroes out of Southern politics by the shotgun and the bulldozer’s whip; cheat them out of the elective franchise; suppress the Republican vote; kill off their white Republican leaders and keep the South solid.  Countless thousands of Negroes in the South lived in conditions approximating slavery, shackled by sharecropping contracts, arrested on trumped-up charges, and sold as convict labor.  Every few days a Negro was lynched: burned, shot, castrated or hacked to pieces.”

Summary

The Invisible Line reveals that the trajectory of history is never a straight line.  The promise of the Reconstruction became the repression of Jim Crow. The Democrats of the past that sought defend slavery before and during the Civil War and deny basic freedoms to blacks afterwards are now the Republicans of the present who deny these events have any impact on the lives of black Americans today. Up became down, and black became white.

Perhaps the most emphatic paragraph in the book is on page 236, where Sharfstein describes the everyday pain in the lives of black Americans.

“The harder whites made it for blacks to earn a living, educate their children, and just make it through a single day without threat or insult, the greater the incentives grew for light-skinned blacks to leave their communities and establish themselves as white.  If anything, the drumbeat of racial purity, the insistence that any African ancestry—a single drop of blood—tainted a person’s very existence, accelerated the migration to new identities and lives.  The difference between white and black seemed obvious, an iron-clad rule, a biological fact.  But the Walls knew that blacks could be as good as whites and as bad, as smart and as stupid.  Blacks had just as much claim to schooling and jobs and love and family, to common courtesies each day.  The Walls knew that blacks could be every bit the equal to whites—and that their skins could be equally light.  As the United States veered from slavery to Jim Crow, O.S.B. Wall’s children did not stand up and fight. They faded away.”

This paragraph for me, offers a clear rationale why individuals chose to identify as white.  More importantly though, Sharfstein like all good historians, shows us how events in the past can be repeated in the present and in the future.  For the Spencers, becoming white meant fitting in.  For the Gibsons, becoming white allowed them to amass great wealth, to lose it (after the Civil War), and reclaim it. O.S.B. Wall lived his entire life working towards the goal that people of African descent could be free, prosperous, American and black.  For the Wall children, becoming white (even at the loss of financial status) was an escape from the indignities of being black.  The chains of oppression do not always result in resistance.  Sometimes the result is denial, surrender and assimilation.  Furthermore, Sharfstein, without saying so, reasserts the importance of influence of law and power upon the lives of his subjects.  Though it is now popular for contempary novelists and cursory historians to recount, reframe, and reimagine the stories of the individual lives without acknowledging the legal and social forces shaping those lives, this is simply unacceptable.  Fortunately, the works of Daniel Sharfstein and the late Peggy Pascoe remind us, as I like to put it, not to allow the history of experiences to obscure the experience of history.

Though The Invisible Line is about past racial migrations, the book says little if anything about present-day racial migrations.  Persistent economic and social disparity among racialized groups in the United States may lead to more Gibsons, Spencers and Walls in the future.  Just over a half-century ago, in 1947, N.A.A.C.P. Secretary Walter White said:

“Every year approximately 12,000 white-skinned Negroes disappear—people whose absence cannot be explained by death or emigration. Nearly every one of the 14 million discernible Negroes in the United States knows at least one member of his race who is ‘passing’—the magic word which means that some Negroes can get by as whites…  Often these emigrants achieve success in business, the professions, the arts and sciences. Many of them have married white people…  Sometimes they tell their husbands or wives of their Negro blood, sometimes not…”

Thus according to sociologist George A. Yancey, white Americans—despite demographic projections—will not lose their numerical majority status in 40 years or so.  For scholars like Yancey, Sharfstein’s secret journey to whiteness, may become a public parade.  Despite the increasing numbers and acceptance of interracial relationships and mixed-race births, intermarriage among non-blacks with whites far outpaces intermarriage between blacks and whites.  The future for Yancey and others is not a white/non-white divide, but rather a black/non-black divide.

With the increasing enactment of harsh anti-immigration legislation, it is indeed conceivable that many Asians and Latinos—particularly those with mixed European ancestry—may opt for a white identity through intermarriage with whites as a balm against increased anti-immigrant sentiment.  As sociologists Jennifer Lee and Frank D. Bean point out, “Asian and Latinos may be next in line to be white, with multiracial Asian whites and Latino whites at the head of the queue.”  If the notion that Asians and Latinos can become white seems implausible, sociologist Charles A. Gallagher points out in his 2010 essay “In-between racial status, mobility, and the promise of assimilation: Irish, Italians yesterday, Latinos and Asians today,”  “If you were Italian or Irish in the mid- to late- nineteenth century it was likely that, as a matter of common understanding and perception, you were on the ‘margins of whiteness.’”

While The Invisible Line is a remarkable book that should be read by anyone interested in the complicated racial history of the United States, it is not a book that trumpets a so-called “post-racial” era.   Sharfstein does an excellent job shattering the notion of racial difference and shows us that the African American experience is integral to the American experience as a whole.  Yet in doing so, he does not—and perhaps he should not—suggest that not only is the notion of  “difference” a fallacy, but the notion of “race” is too.  After all, shouldn’t the Gibsons, Spencers, Walls and their descendents transcend race at this point in time?  Race—or as Rainier Spencer suggests—the belief in race, has been, and still is such a potent force in American life, it may take three more centuries to dispense with it. For all of the current discourses on a utopian future filled with mixed or blended identities, these identities are still defined within same outdated and hierarchical social topology of the past 400 years.  Thus the consequences of the memberships within this multi-tiered topology still has the life altering outcomes—though not as extreme—as in the seventeenth century Virginia that Sharfstein describes.  Without a drastic altering or the elimination of this topology, individuals and families who can, will continue to make the journey from a lower tiered racialized status to a higher one and heap misery and scorn upon those who cannot.  In the end, Daniel J. Sharfstein’s Invisible Line, may not only be a window to the past, but also a glance at the future.

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Winton Triangle history in Chicago!

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2012-11-10 17:36Z by Steven

Winton Triangle history in Chicago!

Chowan Discovery Group
2012-11-06

Marvin Jones

In Chicago, the CDG got the opportunity to introduce our history to a national audience of academics and students at the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference at DePaul University in Chicago.

Writer Lars Adams, of the Chowanoke Descendants website, presented the history of the Choanoac (Chowanoke) people from the earliest evidence in the 8th century, to their encounter with the English in 1586 in Hertford County and to their decline and supposed demise in Gates County 1821. Adams finished his account by relating the re-assertion of Choanoac heritage: the growth of the Robbins family near Cofield, the rise of the Meherrin-Chowanoke people, based in the Hertford County, and the Choanoac marker in Harrellsville that was erected last year.

My latest presentation of the Winton Triangle has since added the recent findings and events of the past year and a new map of Winton Triangle schools. Several audience members told me that is was best presentation they had seen so far, and on that strength, several of them returned to attend the next day’s panel about Melungeons and other mixed-race people in Appalachia. S. J Arthur, President of the Melungeon Heritage Association, and Wayne Winkler, from East Tennessee State University and author of Walking Toward Sunset, documented the historical diversity of mixed-race people in Appalachia. This panel was moderated by the Chowan Discovery Group…

…I’d like to thank Laura Kina of DePaul University for paving the way for our two panels, Meherrin-Chowanoke artist Gerry Lang for moderating the Choanoac-Winton Triangle panel, and Mayola Cotterman, a longtime family friend, for taking me into her comfy, lovely and conveniently-located home and attending both panels. Our friends Steven Riley and Julia Cates of Mixed Race Studies attended, and as always, were supportive…

Read the entire article here.

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My Day at the 5th Annual Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-10-15 05:29Z by Steven

My Day at the 5th Annual Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival

Gino Michael Pellegrini: Education, Amalgamation, Race, Class & Solidarity
2012-10-14

Gino Pellegrini, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English
Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California

Saturday morning, June 16, 2012: I take the Metro from North Hollywood to the Tokyo Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. My destination is the 5th Annual Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival at the Japanese American National Museum and the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. This is a three-day event, but I can be there for just this one day, and my first goal is to meet Steven Riley, the creator of the website, Mixed Race Studies.
 
I have not attended an event centered upon the mixed experience in many years. I walk through the glass doors. The volunteer staff is welcoming and energetic. The imagery is colorful, ambiguous, and stimulating. The overall vibe is positive and hopeful, and for a moment I am taken aback to how I felt at my first mixed-experience event, the 2000 Harvard-Wellesley Conference on the Mixed Race Experience.
 
Skeptics say that this type of event, which brings together individuals of diverse mixes and backgrounds, is unsustainable. Do Hapas, blacklicans, latalians, jewasians, and standard black/white multiracials really have that much in common? Apparently many do, and this Festival holds together amazingly well and continues to grow thanks to the diligence, intelligence, and creativity of its founders, Fanshen Cox and Heidi Durrow.
 
The artists/writers whom I see present or talk to this day have strong personal voices and are very talented at what they do. Overall, their work complicates received understandings of multiracial identity, experience, and art…

Read the entire article here.

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Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience

Posted in History, Law, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Papers/Presentations, Slavery, United States on 2012-06-12 22:15Z by Steven

Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience

Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival
Japanese American National Museum
Los Angeles, California
2011-06-11

Steven F. Riley

The following is the slightly modified text from my opening remarks.

As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, ponder about re-electing our first black President, and begin the remaining 99 decades of the so-called “Mixed Millennium,” never in any point in time have there been so many ways to disseminate and share information about the multiracial experience: online, offline, YouTube, iPhones, blogs, podcasts, self-publishing, publishing on demand, etc. Thoughts and ideas that in the not too-distant past, that may not have been published until after death; can now be broadcast to the world before breakfast.  Never have so many, been able to say so much, so quickly. But while we marvel at the quantity of the information about multiracialism, I ask that we pause and consider the quality of the information about multiracialism.  Never have so many, been able to publish so much… and say so little, so quickly.

The purpose of this workshop is to encourage writers, filmmakers, and activists to consider discourses and texts outside of their own—or their subject’s—personal experiences during the formation of their respective projects.  The ideas discussed during the workshop should not be seen as mandatory or even suggested guidelines for projects, but rather topics for consideration to help an writer or artist present and communicate their ideas in a more meaningful way.

Just a quick question for the audience… What is the year of the first census that tabulated data on individuals of two or more races? [Audience responses were mostly “2000”, there was one “1890.”  The correct answer is “1850.”]

[By the census of 1850, the aggregate number of slaves in the United States was 3,204,313. Of this number, 246,656 were of mixed blood, mulattoes, The number of unmixed negro blood was, therefore, 2,487,455. The free black and mulatto population was 434,495, in the following proportions; blacks, 275,400; mulattoes, 159,095.]

There are three interconnecting areas of discussion that I find lacking in these contemporary discourses.  I will speak briefly on each of them and explain their importance and at the same time use the narrative of Richard and Mildred Loving as a central point of focus.

Our celebration of the Lovings is an excellent entrée into an examination of co-option and the distortion of an American historical narrative.  Similar to the reduction of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life into his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, the narrative of the Lovings has been reduced into the story of “love denied.”  Dr. King did not die because he dreamt of what America could be; he died because he demanded that America be what it should be.  Few remember Dr. King’s criticism of the Vietnam War when he said,

“We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit.”

Like King’s legacy, the popular narrative of the Loving saga has often been crafted in a way that ignores historical facts and denies persistent inequalities.  Like in many stories, there are truths, lies, and omissions. The story of the Lovings is no exception.  It is not that the celebration of the Lovings is inappropriate, it is that it is inadequate.

On the site www.LovingDay.org, the creators state that,

“The Loving Day name comes from Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. We found it quite perfect that a couple named Richard and Mildred Loving won their right to marry, and we know a good thing when we see it. So, Loving Day refers to two kinds of loving: the couple in the Supreme Court case, and the original definition of loving.”

Loving did not legalize interracial marriage in the United States.  It legalized interracial marriage in the 15 remaining states that still had anti-miscegenation laws.  (There were 16 states with such laws at the begining of the trial but the state of Maryland repealed its law while Loving v. Virginia was still pending.)  To its credit, LovingDay.org does give the visitor a state-by-state and year-by-year breakdown of anti-miscegenation laws throughout the United States, nevertheless, the inaccuracy of this paragraph remains.  Loving neither increased the number of interracial marriages in the South nor did it create a so-called late-20th century “multiracial baby boom”—the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 did that by increasing immigration from Asia and Latin America.  In fact, ten states have never enacted anti-miscegenation laws. Loving did, according to Victor Thompson, “send a signal to the U.S. population that, in the eyes of the state, interracial marriage was no longer the ‘sin’ that it used to be—even if it still remained a sin in the minds of some.”  Yet even today in 2011, the state of Mississippi with the lowest ratio of white-to-black residents, and as a result the highest potential of interracial unions and multiracial births, reports the lowest rate of self-identified multiracial individuals in the country.

Our preoccupation and celebration with Loving—and in the case of LovingDay.org with the word “loving”—diverts our attention away from the institutional inequities—that are still with us—that created “race” and racism as we know it and forced the Lovings to spend over half of their marriage fighting for their marriage.  While we may remember Richard Loving’s famous, “Tell the court I love my wife,” few remember their lawyer Bernard Cohen’s eloquent argument to the Supreme Court where he said,

“The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them. They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia… [is] found unconstitutional.”

Race is a Social Construction

“Race is a social construction.” Though it has been nearly a century since scientists began to recognize that the concept of race has no basis in biology, yet race—or rather the belief in race—remains a salient force in our world today.  As most have you have already heard before, human beings are the most similar species on earth. When we speak of race, we speak of a concept originally designed for the commoditization, exploitation, oppression and near extermination of African, indigenous (and later Asian) populations. Race as biology is fallacious and we know it.  If we teach our children to tell the truth, then we should do the same.  I ask that writers and artists consider whether embracing an identity that is based in whole—or in part—on these social constructions merely reinforces those constructions.  As author Cedric Dover stated so eloquently in 1937, “Today there are no half-castes because there are no full-castes.” Additionally, little attention is paid to the role class has in self-identification.  It would be interesting to see projects that take leave of the college campuses, suburban enclaves, and coffee shops and investigate the lives of individuals in poorer rural and/or urban settings.

While multiracial identities give the appearance of a deconstruction of a social order based on race, I suggest otherwise. For example, many multiracial Americans of African/European descent understandably attempt to claim and reassert their non-African ancestry; reminding us how they are “a little French, a little Scottish, Italian, etc.,” few of us stop to ponder the near utter destruction of their African ancestry and how it has-even with the inclusion of European ancestry-been reduced to “black.”  While some may embrace a “Black/White” identity, I ask where are the “Luba/Lithuanians”, “Shona/Scottish”, “Ewe/Estonians”, “Igbo/Icelanders?”  It used to be our identities told us and others, where we came from, what we did, how we hunted, how we fished, where we pressed our wine, how we made cheese, when we planted, how we worshiped, and how we lived.  Only a few seem to know or notice these nearly infinite identities (even from Europe) have been reduced through the centuries by the onslaught of white supremacy to just a handful of exploitable commoditized categories. We think we can manipulate the morally corrupt framework of “race” into a modern utopia, but even the so-called “new” hybrid identities may be reabsorbed or discarded back into the oppressive essentialist elements.

Individuals and groups today in 2011 that insist and demand we all tell our whole “racial truth”, are no less misguided and insidious than the Virginians who insisted and demanded “racial integrity” in 1924.  While some criticize President Obama for identifying as Black, who here knows that “black” Mildred Loving had European ancestry along with Native American ancestry on both sides of her family tree?  What even the most ardent racists in Virginia knew—that apparently some activists today do not—was that “racial integrity” was and is pure nonsense.

I ask the creators in this room if they could create projects that consider what life in our society would be like without race.

History

My second area of discussion is by far, my personal favorite, and unfortunately completely neglected in the non-academic contemporary discourses.  Hopefully those in the audience will make my complaint—excuse the pun—history.

No serious discussion about multiracialism can begin without an understanding of history.  History is not merely important, it is essential.  Without an understanding of the past, we shall not only fail at transforming the future, we shall merely repeat it. Loving v. Virginia was the final battle in a 50+ year struggle to repeal all anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. For many, the history of multiracial America—if one even bothers to discuss history—begins in 1967 with Loving.  Yet even the history of this one case suggests that the genesis of multiracial America began much earlier.

As Kevin Maillard has stated,

“Looking back to Loving as the official birth of Multiracial America reinforces the prevailing memory of racial separatism while further underscoring the illegitimacy of miscegenations past. By establishing racial freedom in marriage, Loving also sets a misleading context for the history of mixed race in America. Even though Loving instigates the open acceptance of interracialism, it unintentionally creates a collective memory that mixed race people and relationships did not exist before 1967.”

Loving did not create an explosive growth in the multiracial population.  The heterogeneous residents of Caroline County, Virginia would have scoffed at such a notion just as the inhabitants of San Salvador would have scoffed at Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of their island.  Just as Columbus was a thousand of years too late to claim a “discovery,” those that suggest a post-Loving “multiracial baby boom” are 300 years too late.  If we are to use a point in time as a demarcation of the beginning of multiracial America, we should consider the year 1661, when the then colony of Maryland codified the first anti-miscegenation statute.

The fact that Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Delores Jeter began their courtship in 1950—when he was 17 and she was 11—clearly indicates that their relationship was not transgressive as far as their families were concerned.  In fact, the Jeters made it clear that “Richard [wasn’t] the first white person in our family,” indicating that Mildred—like most “black” Americans—had heterogeneous ancestry.  Perhaps the reason that the 1950’s Loving-Jeter courtship was non-transgressive within their families, was because such relationships were non-transgressive within their community of Caroline County, Virginia; which was known as the “passing capital of America” because so many light-skinned blacks were mistaken for whites.

White Supremacy

LovingDay.org provides us with what, as far as I can tell is the only interactive state-by-state map of anti-miscegenation laws that I know of. It is indeed—as they put it—“cool”.  Yet despite the information given about these statutes, we are presented no overarching reasons why these laws were enacted in the first place.  Nor are we told who wrote these laws. The site does, correctly state that, “The judiciary system played an important role in regulating interracial relationships.”  Yet something very important is missing from these texts.

Fortunately for us we have a scholar like Peggy Pascoe to tell us the whole truth.  The very first paragraph of her multiple award winning book, What Comes Naturally, Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America, states:

“This book examines two of the most insidious ideas in American history. The first is the belief that interracial marriage is unnatural.  The second is the belief in white supremacy. When these two ideas converged, with the invention of the term “miscegenation” in the 1860s, the stage was set for the rise of a social, political, and legal system of white supremacy that reigned through the 1960s and, many would say, beyond.”

No one should celebrate another “Loving Day” without reading this magnificent book.

In my last of the three areas of discussion, this perhaps is the most difficult to discuss, yet perhaps the most pervasive.  No force in American society has had—and continues to have—a stronger influence on identity than that of white supremacy.

While it is tempting to frame the narrative of the Lovings as a case of love denied by racial difference, there is more to the story.  Anti-miscegenation laws did much more than prevent the marital unions between men and women of different races.  Anti-miscegenation law in fact; transformed the fiction of race into a social reality.  Their enforcement meant that a persons racial identity had to be determined in order to receive a marriage license. Furthermore, the variation in punishments—based on the determined race of the litigants—reinforced the idea of racial hierarchy. Whereas for example, a white person and Indian would both face a $200 dollar fine and two years in prison for illegally getting married, while a white person and a black person would face a $500 fine and five years in prison for the same offense.  Anti-miscegenation laws also disenfranchised spouses and children.  To make matters worse, the idea of racial hierarchy was embraced even in states that had no anti-miscegenation laws. These laws adversely affected all people of color regardless of their marital unions. In short, anti-miscegenation laws were the cornerstone of white supremacy.  Yet despite the multitudes of non-academic discourses celebrating the demise of these laws, absolutely no mention is made in them about white supremacy.

The first anti-miscegenation statutes enacted in Maryland and Virginia in the 1660s were part of the broader strategy of supporting the growing institution of slavery.  The presence of interracial couples and their mixed-race offspring threatened the belief in racial difference, black inferiority, and notion of slavery altogether. To counter this perceived threat, these laws were enacted to create a physical, moral and psychological barrier between the whites and blacks and made the concept of the ownership of another human being acceptable.

On January 6, 1959, just six months after police officers entered through the unlocked front door of the Lovings and arrested the sleeping newly married couple for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, they were sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence was suspended on the condition that they leave the state of Virginia for 25 years.  After passing sentence, the trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile infamously proclaimed:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Although Judge Bazile’s statement is ostensibly about the prevention of what he saw as putative marriages, a closer examination reveals a more sinister agenda. For him, not only did Mildred and Richard Loving not belong in the same bed, they—and all of their respective racial cohorts—did not belong on the same continent.  Although Jim Crow segregation could not send the “races” back to their separate respective “home continents,” it did the next best thing by consigning the races to their separate schools, separate theaters, separate hospitals, and separate water fountains.  Much like his predecessors almost 300 years before, Bazile reaffirmed the framework of white supremacy and the oppression of people of color via the ruse of anti-miscegenation laws.

Conclusion

While we all owe a debt of gratitude to the courageousness of Richard and Mildred Loving that can never be repaid, we should use care on how we celebrate their interracial marriage.  The increased attention towards multiraciality has brought—appropriately—more scrutiny, particularly from the academic community.  More scholars than ever before are examining the role of multiraciality within the framework of racial justice in the United States and abroad. In the case of Latin America, critics have begun to argue that “multiracialism, like the firmly discredited concept of Brazilian racial democracy, functions as an ideology that masks enduring racial injustice and thus blocks substantial political, social, and economic reform.”

The clever positioning by multiracial identity activists of the Loving marriage as the 1960s vanguards of multiraciality, promotes several troubling ideologies that should exposed and examined.  These ideologies effectively distance the Lovings’ saga from the greater African-American struggle for freedom and justice.  Firstly, the emphasis on the “marriage” of the Richard and Mildred Loving implies that these unjust anti-miscegenation laws had no adverse impact towards Black-Americans and other people of color as a whole.  Finally, and most importantly, the continual dissemination of the myth of increased multiracial births since the Loving decision, is an insidious maneuver that illogically seeks to erase the history of over three centuries of interracial marriages and the millions of descendants from those unions.  As I have stated before, we are not becoming a multiracial society, we already are a multiracial society and we have been so for centuries.

By the time the Loving decision marked its first anniversary on June 12, 1968, there was no sign of either a multiracial baby boom or an interracial marriage boom. While the Lovings were finally able to live quietly—and legally—as husband and wife in their Virginia home town, the racist attitudes that inspired the creation of anti-miscegenation laws were still very salient. (In fact, Alabama did not remove its unenforceable statute until 2000).  What “booms” that could be seen and heard were near and far and were those of dismay, protest and death.  Booms were heard loudly in January, 1968 when the North Vietnamese began the Tet Offensive that despite its military failure, shocked policy makers in Washington, D.C. enough that they became convinced that the war—even with its black and white comrades in brutal solidarity—could not be won.  Booms would be heard in cities like Newark, New Jersey—exactly one month after the decision, with riots over racial injustice. Then more “booms” in Detroit, just days later which would be just another one of the 159 race riots in the “long hot summer” of 1967. The most ironic and tragic “boom” would come from the shot of a rifle across the street from a Memphis, Tennessee hotel on April 4, 1968, which would fell Dr. King, America’s true non-violent symbol of racial reconciliation.  From hence “booms” would be heard in violent protest all over America.

The past two years have brought forth an unprecedented amount of critical examination of multiracialism.  Articles, books, live programs, even a conference—The first critical mixed-race studies conference—are forcing us to ask serious and important questions about how multiracialism and multiracial identities may impact  racial dynamics here and abroad.  Even Dr. Naomi Zack—who many of you have just seen in this morning’s movie Multiracial Identity defending the political recognition of a multiracial identity, has since, retracted that position in her article titled “The Fluid Symbol of Mixed Race” in the Fall 2010 issue of the journal Hypatia.

She states:

“The recognition of mixed race that I have advocated would proceed from where we are now, in a society where many people continue to think that human racial taxonomy has a biological foundation. Recognition of mixed race would be fair, because if racially “pure” people are entitled to distinct racial identities, then so are racially mixed people.  Also, the false belief in biological races logically entails a belief in mixed biological races. But, of course, in true biological taxonomic terms, if pure races do not exist, then neither do mixed races (Zack 1997, 183-84; Zack 2002, chap. 7).

However, by the time I finished writing Philosophy of Science and Race (Zack 2002), I had come to the conclusion that broad understanding of the absence of a biological foundation for “race,” beginning with philosophers, was more urgent than mixed-race recognition or identity rights.  Against that needed shift away from the false racialisms to which many liberatory race theorists still clung, advocacy of mixed-race recognition seemed self-serving, if not petty. And I think that the shift is still a work in progress. But still, the ongoing historical phenomena of mixed race and the distinctive experiences of mixed-race people continue to merit consideration, and I am grateful for this opportunity to revisit my earlier confidence and enthusiasm that mixed-race recognition was on the near horizon, with the full-scale undoing of race soon to dawn.”

She continues with,

“…The dangers of insisting on black and white mixed-race political recognition in a system in which blacks are disadvantaged is that a mixed-race group could act as a buffer between blacks and whites and re-inscribe that disadvantage. It is interesting to note that under apartheid in South Africa, there was not only a robust mixed population known as “colored,” but individuals were able to change their race as their life circumstances changed (Goldberg 1995).  From the perspective of mixed-race individuals, this example may seem as though even South Africa was more liberatory on the grounds of race than the one-drop-rule-governed U.S. (This is not to say that South African coloreds had full civil liberties under apartheid, but only that they were better off than many blacks.)  But from a more broad perspective, in terms of white–black relations, recognition of mixed-race identity, while it may advantage mixed-race individuals and add sophistication to a black and white imaginary of race, does little to dislodge white supremacy overall. The public and political recognition of mixed-race identities could be quite dangerous to white–black race relations overall if the position of blacks remained unchanged (Spencer 1999).  But continued obliviousness about mixed-race identities holds the immediate danger of denying the existence of injustice for some presumptively pure blacks who do not have the advantages of white parentage…”

With the next two years promising even more scrutiny of the discussion surrounding multiraciality, it is more important than ever that we all read the academic texts to help us create projects that can produce greater impact.

©2011, Steven F. Riley

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MOsley WOtta Frontman Jason Graham to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Posted in Arts, Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2012-02-24 02:05Z by Steven

MOsley WOtta Frontman Jason Graham to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Mixed Chicks Chat (The only live weekly show about being racially and culturally mixed. Also, founders of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival) Hosted by Fanshen Cox, Heidi W. Durrow and Jennifer Frappier
Website: TalkShoe™ (Keywords: Mixed Chicks)
Episode: #245 – Jason Graham
When: Wednesday, 2012-02-22, 22:00Z (17:00 EST, 14:00 PST)

Jason Graham,

Steven F. Riley, Guest Host

Don’t miss this chat with Jason Graham aka MOsley WOtta—spoken word artist extraordinaire!

For more on Jason Graham, see:

[Note from Steven F. Riley: I'll will be the first Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival donor to receive the gift of guest hosting Mixed Chicks Chat]

Listen to the episode here.  Download the episode here.

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