Review: With ‘Dougla,’ Dance Theater of Harlem Recalls Past Glory

Posted in Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2018-04-11 20:46Z by Steven

Review: With ‘Dougla,’ Dance Theater of Harlem Recalls Past Glory

The New York Times
2018-04-08

Brian Seibert


Alicia Mae Holloway, center, and fellow members of Dance Theater of Harlem performing in “Dougla.”
Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

The enthusiastic applause for Dance Theater of Harlem’s revival of “Dougla,” at the New York City Center on Friday, started as soon as the curtain rose. The opening image was of a stage full of proudly posed men and women, all in floor-length skirts decorated with little red pom-poms. More of those pom-poms crowned their heads like rooster combs.

Geoffrey Holder, who choreographed “Dougla” in 1974 (and died in 2014), also designed its costumes, and the dance is largely a costume pageant. But it wasn’t just the spectacle that people were cheering.

Long a staple of Dance Theater of Harlem’s repertory, “Dougla” has not been performed by the company since 2004. That year, debt forced the troupe into hiatus, and when the company re-emerged in 2013, its roster had shrunk by more than half…

…“Dougla” is a rather old-fashioned work. The title is a word used, especially in Mr. Holder’s native Trinidad, to label people of mixed South Asian and African descent. As part of its representation of such people, the choreography indulges in a kind of cartoon imitation of Indian dance. While wood blocks crack, heads nod and wobble like the tops of bobblehead dolls. The motion is theatrically effective — that’s why it’s repeated even during the bows — but close to caricature…

Read the entire review here.

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How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

BuzzFeed
2018-03-30


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

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How to Talk About ‘Race’ and Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:17Z by Steven

How to Talk About ‘Race’ and Genetics

The New York Times
2018-03-30

David Reich, Professor of Genetics
Harvard Medical School
also, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute


Angie Wong

In a Sunday Review essay last weekend, David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard, argued that science is changing how we think about “race” and urged a candid discussion of the findings, whatever they may be. Hundreds of readers left comments, many expressing worry about the possibility that the results could be misinterpreted or nefariously applied. Here are Dr. Reich’s responses to some of the comments. — The Editors…

…From my point of view, it should be possible for everyone to hold in their heads the following six truths:

  1. “Race” is fundamentally a social category — not a biological one — as anthropologists have shown.
  2. There are clear genetic contributors to many traits, including behavior.
  3. Present-day human populations, which often but not always are correlated to today’s “race” categories, have in a number of instances been largely isolated from one another for tens of thousands of years. These long separations have provided adequate opportunity for the frequencies of genetic variations to change.
  4. Genetic variations are likely to affect behavior and cognition just as they affect other traits, even though we know that the average genetic influences on behavior and cognition are strongly affected by upbringing and are likely to be more modest than genetic influences on bodily traits or disease.
  5. The genetic variations that influence behavior in one population will almost certainly have an effect on behavior in others populations, even if the ways those genetic variations manifest in each population may be very different. Given that all genetically determined traits differ somewhat among populations, we should expect that there will be differences in the average effects, including in traits like behavior.
  6. To insist that no meaningful average differences among human populations are possible is harmful. It is perceived as misleading, even patronizing, by the general public. And it encourages people not to trust the honesty of scholars and instead to embrace theories that are not scientifically grounded and often racist…

Read the entire article here.

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Census Bureau’s Own Expert Panel Rebukes Decision to Add Citizenship Question

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2018-03-31 01:51Z by Steven

Census Bureau’s Own Expert Panel Rebukes Decision to Add Citizenship Question

The New York Times
2018-03-30

Michael Wines, National Correspondent


A Census Bureau panel denounced the decision this week to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, saying it would depress the response.
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The Trump administration’s decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census, already the target of lawsuits and broad criticism by statistics authorities, drew a new opponent on Friday: the experts who advise the Census Bureau itself.

Those experts — prominent demographers, economists, engineers and others who make up the Census Scientific Advisory Committee — said in a statement that the decision was based on “flawed logic,” could threaten the accuracy and confidentiality of the head count and likely would make it more expensive to conduct.

In the statement, addressed to the acting Census Bureau director, Ron Jarmin, the committee also said it worried about the “implications for attitudes about the Census Bureau,” an allusion to fears that the latest move jeopardized the bureau’s nonpartisan reputation…

Read the entire article here.

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The Americans Our Government Won’t Count

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2018-03-30 19:42Z by Steven

The Americans Our Government Won’t Count

Sunday Review
The New York Times
2018-03-30

Alex Wagner, Contributing Editor
The Atlantic


Monica Ramos

Racially speaking, the United States is zero percent Hispanic. This is confusing — especially for America’s nearly 58 million Hispanics.

The United States census breaks our country into six general racial categories: White; Black; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; American Indian or Alaska Native; and Some Other Race. “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin” is treated not as a race but as an ethnicity — a question asked separately. So someone may be White (Hispanic) or Black (Hispanic) but not simply Hispanic. As a result, many Hispanics check “White” or, increasingly, “Some Other Race.” This ill-defined category is what mixed-race Americans, like me — half Burmese, half Luxembourgian-Irish — often check. It might just as well be called “Generally Brown.” Today, the third-largest racial group in America is “Some Other Race” — and it is made up overwhelmingly of Hispanics.

Equally obscured are America’s estimated 3.7 million residents of Arab descent. With neither a racial nor an ethnic category to call their own, they most often opt for a racial designation of “White.” But to count Yemenis and Syrians as generically white is a complicated proposition these days, when whiteness confers power, and men and women from the Arab world are instead the subjects of travel bans and national security debates.

Nearly four years ago, the Census Bureau began researching how to more accurately represent these populations and decided to combine the race and ethnicity questions into one, and to add two new categories: one for residents of Middle Eastern/North African origin and one for those of Hispanic origin. Many advocates within those groups celebrated the reforms, and the broad expectation was that the next census, in 2020, would incorporate these changes. After all, the bureau itself concluded that they were necessary to “produce the highest quality statistics about our nation’s diverse population.”…

Read the entire article here.

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How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2018-03-25 02:14Z by Steven

How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’

Sunday Review
Gray Matter
The New York Times
2018-03-23

David Reich, Professor of Genetics
Harvard Medical School
also, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute


Angie Wang

In 1942, the anthropologist Ashley Montagu published “Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race,” an influential book that argued that race is a social concept with no genetic basis. A classic example often cited is the inconsistent definition of “black.” In the United States, historically, a person is “black” if he has any sub-Saharan African ancestry; in Brazil, a person is not “black” if he is known to have any European ancestry. If “black” refers to different people in different contexts, how can there be any genetic basis to it?

Beginning in 1972, genetic findings began to be incorporated into this argument. That year, the geneticist Richard Lewontin published an important study of variation in protein types in blood. He grouped the human populations he analyzed into seven “races” — West Eurasians, Africans, East Asians, South Asians, Native Americans, Oceanians and Australians — and found that around 85 percent of variation in the protein types could be accounted for by variation within populations and “races,” and only 15 percent by variation across them. To the extent that there was variation among humans, he concluded, most of it was because of “differences between individuals.”

In this way, a consensus was established that among human populations there are no differences large enough to support the concept of “biological race.” Instead, it was argued, race is a “social construct,” a way of categorizing people that changes over time and across countries.

It is true that race is a social construct. It is also true, as Dr. Lewontin wrote, that human populations “are remarkably similar to each other” from a genetic point of view…

Read the entire article here.

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A Brutal Heritage Finally Revealed

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, United States on 2018-03-18 01:00Z by Steven

A Brutal Heritage Finally Revealed

Book Review
The New York Times
2018-03-16

Sheila A. Kohler


Krystal A. Sital
Elwira Katarzyna Maciejewski

SECRETS WE KEPT: Three Women of Trinidad
By Krystal A. Sital
337 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $25.95.

When Krystal Sital’s grandfather Shiva Singh suffers a cerebral hemorrhage, her grandmother Rebecca, after 53 years of marriage, reacts with calm indifference. Sital, who reveres her tall, strong and generous grandfather, with his white hair and “skin the color of a sapphire sky,” spends much of her suspenseful memoir, “Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad,” elucidating this response.

With the family patriarch debilitated, Sital’s grandmother and her mother are safe for the first time, able to share their secrets with Sital, who listens, her blood pumping to a “chant I cannot forget.” These vivid memories attack us as they do her, “in waves.”…

…The Trinidad depicted here is rife with prejudice and hate. Hostility persists between the Africans, brought as slaves, and the Indians, who arrived as indentured servants. Those of mixed race are called “mulatto,” “dougla” and “cocopanyol” — “the words are hissed and spat at my family: My grandmother is mixed, my Indian grandfather is not.”…

Read the entire review here.

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A Black Woman Who Defied Segregation in Canada Will Appear on Its Currency

Posted in Articles, Canada, Economics, History, Media Archive, Women on 2018-03-13 18:33Z by Steven

A Black Woman Who Defied Segregation in Canada Will Appear on Its Currency

The New York Times
2018-03-12

Ian Austen


Canada’s finance minister, Bill Morneau, right, with Wanda Robson in Gatineau, Quebec, last year, after an image of her sister Viola Desmond was chosen to be featured on a new $10 bank note.
Chris Wattie/Reuters

OTTAWA — Nine years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Jim Crow-era bus in Montgomery, Ala., Viola Desmond tried to sit in a whites-only section of a movie theater in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

Ms. Desmond, a businesswoman who had her own line of cosmetics and who died in 1965, was prosecuted for trying to defraud the provincial government of 1 cent — the difference in sales tax for a seat in the balcony, where blacks were expected to sit and the whites-only ground floor ticket price. While she offered to pay the tax, she was convicted and fined 26 Canadian dollars, including court costs, at a trial at which the theater owner acted as the prosecutor and she was without a lawyer.

Now she is about to become the first black person — and the first woman other than a British royal — to appear alone on Canadian currency. The new series of $10 bills is to be released this year…


A conceptual image of the front of the new Canadian bank note featuring a portrait of Viola Desmond.
Bank of Canada

Read the entire article here.

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Frederick Douglass’s Fight Against Scientific Racism

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, United States on 2018-02-25 18:33Z by Steven

Frederick Douglass’s Fight Against Scientific Racism

The New York Times
2018-02-22

Eric Herschthal, Fellow
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. New York Public Library


Frederick Douglass in the 1870s. Scientists, he wrote, sometimes “sacrifice what is true to what is popular.”
Credit Corbis, via Getty Images

The 200th birthday of one of America’s greatest thinkers, Frederick Douglass, is being celebrated this month. Douglass is remembered as many things: a fugitive slave who gained his freedom, an abolitionist, an advocate for women’s rights, a gifted writer and orator. But we should also remember him as someone whose insights about scientific theories of race are every bit as relevant in our era as they were when he wrote them.

When Douglass rose to prominence, in the 1840s, he was living in a world just as excited and anxious about his era’s new inventions, like the railroad and the telegraph, as we are about modern-day innovation. But he understood that the ends to which science could be used were forever bound up with the moral choices of its practitioners. “Scientific writers, not less than others, write to please, as well as to instruct,” he wrote in 1854, “and even unconsciously to themselves (sometimes) sacrifice what is true to what is popular.”

That statement was part of a lecture in which he attacked one of the most prominent scientific fields of the antebellum era: ethnology, or what was sometimes called “the science of race.” Though often dismissed today as pseudoscience, at the time Douglass was writing, it was considered legitimate. The most accomplished scientists engaged in it, and the public eagerly consumed it…

…Of course, engaging with ethnology on its own terms was a dangerous game. It sometimes meant that Douglass perpetuated scientific ways of thinking about race rather than simply dismantling its logic and insisting on race as a product of history. He borrowed from the ethnological theories of his friend James McCune Smith, a fellow black abolitionist and the nation’s first credentialed black physician, to argue that both black and white people would be improved by racial mixing.

Yet it would be wrong to dismiss these ideas as merely the result of Douglass’s own mixed racial heritage — his father, possibly his owner, was white — or as a backhanded insult to black history, to black culture. They were always written in the service of a clear political agenda, one that was radical for his time: full black integration rather than segregation…

Read the entire article here.

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What Doctors Should Ignore

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2018-02-14 04:27Z by Steven

What Doctors Should Ignore

The New York Times
2017-12-08

Moises Velasquez-Manoff


Joan Wong

Science has revealed how arbitrary racial categories are. Perhaps medicine will abandon them, too.

Sickle cell anemia was first described in 1910 and was quickly labeled a “black” disease. At a time when many people were preoccupied with an imagined racial hierarchy, with whites on top, the disease was cited as evidence that people of African descent were inferior. But what of white people who presented with sickle cell anemia?

Doctors twisted themselves into knots trying to explain those cases away. White sickle cell patients must have mixed backgrounds, they contended — a black forebear they didn’t know about perhaps, or one they didn’t want to mention. Or maybe white patients’ symptoms didn’t stem from sickle cell anemia at all, but some other affliction. The bottom line was, the disease was “black,” so by definition white people couldn’t get it.

Today, scientists understand the sickle cell trait as an adaptation to malaria, not evidence of inferiority. One copy of the sickle cell trait protects against malaria. Having two can cause severe anemia and even death. Scientists also know that the trait is common outside Africa across the “malaria belt” — the Arabian Peninsula, India and parts of the Mediterranean Basin. And people historically considered white can, in fact, carry it. In the Greek town of Orchomenos, for example, the gene is more prevalent than it is among African-Americans.

We know all this, and yet the racialization of the disease, the idea that it occurs only in people of sub-Saharan African descent, persists. “When I talk to medical students, I get this all the time — ‘Sickle cell is a black trait,’ ” Michael Yudell, chairman of the department of community health and prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, told me.

That’s worrisome for many reasons, he says, chief among them that it may result in subpar medical care for some patients. Case in point: California’s universal blood disorder screening program has identified thousands of nonblack children with the sickle cell trait and scores with the disease — patients who, had doctors stuck to received “wisdom,” might have been missed.

Professor Yudell belongs to a growing chorus of scholars and researchers who argue that in science at least, we need to push past the race concept and, where possible, scrap it entirely. Professor Yudell and others contend that instead of talking about race, we should talk about ancestry (which, unlike “race,” refers to one’s genetic heritage, not innate qualities); or the specific gene variants that, like the sickle cell trait, affect disease risk; or environmental factors like poverty or diet that affect some groups more than others…

Read the entire article here.

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