Review: ‘An Octoroon,’ a Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Comedy About Race

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-02 01:18Z by Steven

Review: ‘An Octoroon,’ a Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Comedy About Race

The New York Times
2015-02-26

Ben Brantley, Chief Theater Critic

Walking on a stage covered with cotton balls is a tricky business. It’s all too easy to slip into a pratfall. And forget about running or dancing or hopping like a bunny, as the characters sometimes unwisely attempt in “An Octoroon,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s coruscating comedy of unresolved history, which opened on Thursday night at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn.

But it feels right that the people occupying this production, first seen last year at Soho Rep, should be required to move on what might be called terra infirma. For Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins has deliberately built his play on slippery foundations, the kind likely to trip up any dramatist, performer or theatergoer.

“An Octoroon,” you see, is all about race in these United States, as it was and is and unfortunately probably shall be for a considerable time. That’s race as a subject that no one can get a comfortable hold on.

Directed by Sarah Benson, in a style that perfectly matches its mutating content, “An Octoroon” is a shrewdly awkward riff on Dion Boucicault’sThe Octoroon” (notice the change in article), a 19th-century chestnut about illicit interracial love. Boucicault’s melodrama was a great hit in its day but is now almost never performed, except possibly as a camp diversion for private amusement.

Read the entire review here.

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In France, a Baby Switch and a Test of a Mother’s Love

Posted in Articles, Europe, Family/Parenting, Media Archive on 2015-02-24 22:48Z by Steven

In France, a Baby Switch and a Test of a Mother’s Love

The New York Times
2015-02-24

Maïa de la Baume

GRASSE, France — When Sophie Serrano finally held her daughter, Manon, in her arms after the newborn, suffering from jaundice, had been placed under artificial light, she was taken aback by the baby’s thick tufts of hair.

“I hadn’t noticed it before and it surprised me,” Ms. Serrano said in an interview at her home here in southern France, not far from the Côte d’Azur.

Ms. Serrano, now 39, was baffled again a year later, when she noticed that her baby’s hair had grown frizzy and that her skin color was darker than hers or her partner’s.

But her love for the child trumped any doubts. Even as her relationship unraveled, in part, she said, over her partner’s suspicions, she painstakingly looked after the baby until a paternity test more than 10 years later showed that neither she nor her partner were Manon’s biological parents. Ms. Serrano later found out that a nurse had accidentally switched babies and given them to the wrong mothers…

…Ms. Serrano’s love for Manon, she said, grew stronger after she learned that the girl was not her biological daughter. She also said that, after meeting the girl she had given birth to, she felt no particular connection with her.

“It is not the blood that makes a family,” Ms. Serrano said. “What makes a family is what we build together, what we tell each other. And I have created a wonderful bond with my nonbiological daughter.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Building a Face, and a Case, on DNA

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-02-24 02:39Z by Steven

Building a Face, and a Case, on DNA

The New York Times
2015-02-23

Andrew Pollack


The police in Columbia, S.C.,  released this sketch of a possible suspect based on DNA left at the crime scene. Parabon NanoLabs, which made the image, has begun offering DNA phenotyping services to law enforcement agencies.

There were no known eyewitnesses to the murder of a young woman and her 3-year-old daughter four years ago. No security cameras caught a figure coming or going.

Nonetheless, the police in Columbia, S.C., last month released a sketch of a possible suspect. Rather than an artist’s rendering based on witness descriptions, the face was generated by a computer relying solely on DNA found at the scene of the crime.

It may be the first time a suspect’s face has been put before the public in this way, but it will not be the last. Investigators are increasingly able to determine the physical characteristics of crime suspects from the DNA they leave behind, providing what could become a powerful new tool for law enforcement.

Already genetic sleuths can determine a suspect’s eye and hair color fairly accurately. It is also possible, or might soon be, to predict skin color, freckling, baldness, hair curliness, tooth shape and age.

Computers may eventually be able to match faces generated from DNA to those in a database of mug shots. Even if it does not immediately find the culprit, the genetic witness, so to speak, can be useful, researchers say…

…Law enforcement authorities say that information about physical traits derived from DNA is not permitted in court because the science is not well established. Still, the prospect of widespread DNA phenotyping has unnerved some experts.

Duana Fullwiley, an associate professor of anthropology at Stanford, said that she worried that use of such images could contribute to racial profiling. She noted that Dr. Shriver developed his system by analyzing the DNA and faces of people with mixed West African and European ancestry.

“This leads to a technology that is better able to make faces that are African-American,” she said. The image produced in the South Carolina case, Dr. Fullwiley added, “was of a generic young black man.”

Dr. Shriver said he initially studied people of mixed European and African ancestry, many of them from Brazil, because that made the analysis easier. His more recent research has involved people of many different ethnicities, he said…

Read the entire article here.

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Giuliani: Obama Had a White Mother, So I’m Not a Racist

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-02-20 16:10Z by Steven

Giuliani: Obama Had a White Mother, So I’m Not a Racist

The New York Times
2015-02-19

Maggie Haberman, Political Reporter

Nicholas Confessore, Political Reporter

Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York on Thursday defended his assertion that President Obama did not love America, and said that his criticism of Mr. Obama’s upbringing should not be considered racist because the president was raised by “a white mother.”

Mr. Giuliani’s remarks — made at a New York fund-raising event for Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin on Wednesday night and first reported by Politico — set off an uproar.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Mr. Giuliani said at the event. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

Critics suggested that Mr. Giuliani’s description of Mr. Obama’s upbringing reflected a prejudiced view that Mr. Obama was different from other Americans…

Read the entire article here.

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First Black Elected to Head Harvard’s Law Review

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2015-02-06 21:01Z by Steven

First Black Elected to Head Harvard’s Law Review

The New York Times
1990-02-06

Fox Butterfield

BOSTON, Feb. 5—  The Harvard Law Review, generally considered the most prestigious in the country, elected the first black president in its 104-year history today. The job is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago’s South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii.

“The fact that I’ve been elected shows a lot of progress,” Mr. Obama said today in an interview. “It’s encouraging.

“But it’s important that stories like mine aren’t used to say that everything is O.K. for blacks. You have to remember that for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don’t get a chance,” he said, alluding to poverty or growing up in a drug environment…

Read the entire article here.

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U.S. to Collect Genetic Data to Hone Care

Posted in Arts, Barack Obama, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-01-31 23:23Z by Steven

U.S. to Collect Genetic Data to Hone Care

The New York Times
2015-01-30

Robert Pear, Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Saying that “the possibilities are boundless,” President Obama on Friday announced a major biomedical research initiative, including plans to collect genetic data on one million Americans so scientists could develop drugs and treatments tailored to the characteristics of individual patients.

Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said the studies would help doctors decide which treatments would work best for which patients.

White House officials said the “precision medicine initiative” would begin with a down payment of $215 million in the president’s budget request for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Precision medicine, also known as personalized or individualized medicine, “gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen,” Mr. Obama said at a White House event attended by patients’ advocates, researchers, and drug and biotechnology company executives.

Among those in the audience was Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate health committee, who said he intended to work with the president on the issue.

Mr. Obama said the new initiative could save lives, create jobs, foster new industries and help people overcome “the accidents and circumstances of our birth.”

“If we’re born with a particular disease, or a particular genetic makeup that makes us more vulnerable to something, that’s not our destiny, that’s not our fate,” Mr. Obama said. “We can remake it. That’s who we are as Americans, and that’s the power of scientific discovery.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Is the Defendant White or Not?

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-26 21:26Z by Steven

Is the Defendant White or Not?

The New York Times
2015-01-23

Nour Kteily, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations
Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University

Sarah Cotterill, Doctoral Student
Department of Psychology
Harvard University

AS jury selection continues in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the defendant in the Boston Marathon bombings, so does debate about what would constitute a fair and impartial jury. Questions have been raised about the race, gender, age and religiosity of prospective jurors; about the effect of holding the trial in Boston; and about the legal requirement that the jurors be open to the possibility of sentencing the defendant to death.

But recent research of ours suggests that another, largely overlooked factor may also play an important role in the trial: whether the jurors perceive Mr. Tsarnaev as white.

No sooner did the F.B.I. release photographs of Mr. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, three days after the bombings, than questions arose about the racial identity of the suspects. (“Are the Tsarnaev Brothers White?” ran a headline in Salon.) Although neither brother matched the visual prototype of a white American, both hailed from the Caucasus, the region that gave rise to the term “Caucasian,” and both had lived in America for many years…

Read the entire article here.

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Tracee Ellis Ross: ‘That Hurt Like the Bejesus’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-25 20:23Z by Steven

Tracee Ellis Ross: ‘That Hurt Like the Bejesus’

The New York Times
2015-01-22


Tracee Ellis Ross Credit Pej Behdarvand for The New York Times

The actress talks with Jenna Wortham about defining her own sense of beauty and humor.

It’s awards-show season. Do you like going to the shows? I didn’t actually go to the Golden Globes, but I do love awards-show season. It means lots of pretty dresses — and it’s even more fun when you are nominated.

The show you’re on, “black-ish,” has gotten a fair amount of critical praise. Do you know if the show has been picked up for a second season? No. Having been in the business for a while, I never like to look forward. You kind of enjoy what’s happening while it’s happening and leave the rest up to God, the angels, the trees, the stars — whatever you want to call it.

I love how women have responded to you in particular, especially the way you wear your hair out in this gorgeous storm cloud. A storm cloud? Is that what you said?

I may have said that, yes. That’s lovely. Women are asked to put forward, to a certain extent, a mask. And for black women, that has taken on greater significance, because the standard of beauty has not necessarily had the space for different definitions of beauty. I’m trying to find my own version of what makes me feel beautiful. On “black-ish,” there’s a lot that has to be done working around my hair, in terms of scheduling…

Read the entire interview here.

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‘Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye,’ by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews on 2015-01-25 02:56Z by Steven

‘Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye,’ by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2015-01-23

Richard Lloyd Parry

Mockett, Marie Mutsuki, Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015), 316 pp.

Among the many shocking things about tsunamis — along with their suddenness, violence and indiscriminate destruction of life and community — is how little there is to say about them. Man-made catastrophes, like wars or nuclear accidents, provide infinite opportunities for blame, recrimination and lessons learned. But natural disasters have no politics. One can quibble about the height of sea walls, the promptness of warnings and the quality of aid given to survivors. But such events have always occurred in countries like Japan, and always will. When the wave has receded, the dead have been counted and the slow work of recovery has begun, the pundits sheepishly quit the field and abandon it to the theologians, the spiritualists and the priests.

These are the people at the core of Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s book, which opens with the tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011 and closes with a ghost. The act of God and the haunting frame an intriguing, but often awkward, travelogue through a landscape of Japanese spiritual belief, with forays into history, folklore and memoir. But the book’s central subject, deferred and evaded for much of its length, is the stubborn anguish of personal grief — the experience, as Mockett puts it, of being “kidnapped against one’s will and forced to go to some foreign country, all the while just longing to go back home.”

Mockett’s country is the United States, but she is a complicated, troubled American, and like many such journeys, hers is also a quest for identity. As the child of an American father, raised in California, she regards herself as fully of the West. From her Japanese mother she has acquired fluency in the language, although no sense of belonging in her maternal country. But she has the ability, fully available only to those on the margins, “to see through more than one set of eyes, if one learns to pay attention to one’s environment.” It is this gift of double-sightedness, of bringing to bear both the “dry” rationality of the West and the “sticky” sensibilities professed by the Japanese, that makes this the most interesting book so far to have come out of the disaster…

Read the entire review here.

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A Multiethnic Movement Emerges in Guyana to Counter Politics-as-Usual

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2015-01-20 18:51Z by Steven

A Multiethnic Movement Emerges in Guyana to Counter Politics-as-Usual

The New York Times
2015-01-17

Girish Gupta

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Swaying to the rhythms of Afro-Guyanese reggae, the protesters, descendants of African slaves and indentured laborers from India, gathered on the streets of Georgetown in a show of unity against the country’s president.

A few years ago, a gathering of members of Guyana’s two main ethnic groups, which have long been at opposite ends of the country’s political divide, would have been unusual.

But the protest in November, after President Donald Ramotar suspended Parliament in order to fend off a no-confidence motion, reflected an important change taking place in this tiny English-speaking country of just 740,000 people perched on the shoulder of South America.

Politics in Guyana have long been delineated by race. But a multiethnic movement that has emerged in recent years has given voice to a new generation of Guyanese who say that politics as usual has held the country back by favoring race over merit, undermining economic progress.

“This shows the true reality of Guyana now,” Marcia de Costa, 37, a manager of a beauty salon, said, pointing toward the diverse crowd at the rally. “This is new for us.”

The two main political parties in Guyana have traditionally hewed to racial lines: one drawing support from the descendants of Africans brought over by the Dutch in the 17th century, and the other from the descendants of the Indians brought by the British a couple of centuries later.

But the emergence of a third party in recent years has changed the dynamics…

Read the entire article here.

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