What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-11-25 18:04Z by Steven

What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather

The New York Times

Gordon J. Davis, Partner
Venable, LLP,  New York, New York

John Abraham Davis, center, and his family at their farm in the early 1900s. Credit Courtesy of the Davis Family

OVER the last week, a growing number of students at Princeton have demanded that the university confront the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson, who served as its president before becoming New Jersey’s governor and the 28th president of the United States. Among other things, the students are demanding that Wilson’s name be removed from university facilities.

Wilson, a Virginia-born Democrat, is mostly remembered as a progressive, internationalist statesman, a benign and wise leader, a father of modern American political science and one of our nation’s great presidents.

But he was also an avowed racist. And unlike many of his predecessors and successors in the White House, he put that racism into action through public policy. Most notably, his administration oversaw the segregation of the federal government, destroying the careers of thousands of talented and accomplished black civil servants — including John Abraham Davis, my paternal grandfather.

An African-American born in 1862 to a prominent white Washington lawyer and his black “housekeeper,” my grandfather was a smart, ambitious and handsome young black man. He emulated his idol, Theodore Roosevelt, in style and dress. He walked away from whatever assistance his father might have offered to his unacknowledged black offspring and graduated at the top of his class from Washington’s M Street High School (later the renowned all-black Dunbar High School)…

Read the entire article here.

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Agriculture Linked to DNA Changes in Ancient Europe

Posted in Articles, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-11-24 16:26Z by Steven

Agriculture Linked to DNA Changes in Ancient Europe

The New York Times

Carl Zimmer

The agricultural revolution was one of the most profound events in human history, leading to the rise of modern civilization. Now, in the first study of its kind, an international team of scientists has found that after agriculture arrived in Europe 8,500 years ago, people’s DNA underwent widespread changes, altering their height, digestion, immune system and skin color.

Researchers had found indirect clues of some of these alterations by studying the genomes of living Europeans. But the new study, they said, makes it possible to see the changes as they occurred over thousands of years.

“For decades we’ve been trying to figure out what happened in the past,” said Rasmus Nielsen, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the new study. “And now we have a time machine.”

…Dr. Reich and his colleagues also tracked changes in the color of European skin.

The original hunter-gatherers, descendants of people who had come from Africa, had dark skin as recently as 9,000 years ago. Farmers arriving from Anatolia were lighter, and this trait spread through Europe. Later, a new gene variant emerged that lightened European skin even more.

Why? Scientists have long thought that light skin helped capture more vitamin D in sunlight at high latitudes. But early hunter-gatherers managed well with dark skin. Dr. Reich suggests that they got enough vitamin D in the meat they caught.

He hypothesizes that it was the shift to agriculture, which reduced the intake of vitamin D, that may have triggered a change in skin color…

Read the entire article here.

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THINK TANK; Uncovering an Interracial Literature of Love . . . and Racism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2015-11-18 22:11Z by Steven

THINK TANK; Uncovering an Interracial Literature of Love . . . and Racism

The New York Times

Emily Eakin

The word miscegenation entered America’s bitter racial politics and the national lexicon by way of an ambitious hoax. On Christmas Day in 1863, an anonymous 72-page pamphlet appeared on newsstands around New York City. Titled “Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro,” it had all the earmarks of a tract by radical abolitionists.

Arguing that “science has demonstrated that the intermarriage of diverse races is indispensable to a progressive humanity,” it triumphantly unveiled a new vocabulary to accompany America’s noble, interracial future. In addition to “miscegenation” (derived, the text explained, from the Latin words miscere, to mix, and genus, race), the neologisms included: “miscegen” (“an offspring of persons of different races”), “miscegenate” (“to mingle persons of different races”) and “melaleukation” (from the Greek words melas and leukos, for black and white, and used to mean the mingling of those races).

“We must become a yellow-skinned, black-haired people — in fine, we must become miscegens if we would attain the fullest results of civilization,” the pamphlet exhorted, pointing to the number of European nations composed “of many diverse bloods” that could claim extraordinary cultural achievements. Just consider the French, it suggested by way of example: “The two most brilliant writers it can boast of are the melaleukon, Dumas, and his son, a quadroon.”

Applauded by prominent abolitionists and denounced in Congress, the pamphlet made miscegenation a household word. But the work turned out to be a fraud, an ultimately unsuccessful scheme by two journalists at a pro-Democratic newspaper to turn voters against Abraham Lincoln, the Republican president who freed the slaves and was up for re-election in 1864.

”You have to imagine that an 1863 audience would take this as the worst possible thing,” said Werner Sollors, a professor of English and African-American studies at Harvard. ”If you read it from a 21st-century point of view, a lot of it seems common sensical.”

The pamphlet is just one of many startling textual artifacts Mr. Sollors included in a new book he edited, ”An Anthology of Interracial Literature: Black-White Contacts in the Old World and the New.” Published in February by New York University Press, the $28 anthology is the first in English devoted to work that Mr. Sollors says has typically been overlooked, an orphan literature belonging to no clear ethnic or national tradition…

Read the entire review here.

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An African King in Bolivia

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2015-11-18 21:54Z by Steven

An African King in Bolivia

The New York Times

David Gonzalez, Side Street Columnist; Lens Blog Co-Editor

King Don Julio Pinedo being helped by his son, Rolando Pinedo, the prince, into a royal cloak. Queen Angelica oversees the details of her husband’s royal dress. Don Julio is shy and does not feel comfortable dressing as a king. (Susana Giron)

Tucked away in an isolated part of Bolivia, there is a royal family whose existence is as surprising as it is humble. Despite his title, King Don Julio I and his wife live in a small apartment atop a small store in Mururata, Bolivia, where he farms coca leaves and other crops.

Yet this modest monarch can trace his lineage to West Africa, where his ancestor Prince Uchicho was enslaved in 1820 and taken by the Spaniards to work in the silver mines of the region. That era gave rise to the country’s Afro-Bolivian population, which sustained the tradition, which was largely ceremonial, said Susana Giron, a Spanish photographer who was intrigued by the life of the current king, who was born 73 years ago as Julio Pinedo…

…Ms. Giron said that a historian who purchased the old hacienda — where the Pinedos had taken the names of the slave owners — learned about the royal connection to Africa and set about to find an heir. His efforts, she said, led him to Julio Pinedo, who was named king in 1992.

“He is a symbolic figure,” she said. “For the Afro-Bolivians, he is important because he gives them a cultural identity. It shows they are a people descended from Africa. It is about their history and culture.”

The history of Africans in Latin America has been coming more and more to the fore in recent years. In Bolivia, it was not until recently that they were even counted in the national census, with their 2012 population pegged at some 23,000 in a country of 10 million. They still face discrimination and socioeconomic obstacles

Read the entire article and view the slide show here.

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Mayor de Blasio Has Lost Support of White New Yorkers, Poll Finds

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-11-18 21:36Z by Steven

Mayor de Blasio Has Lost Support of White New Yorkers, Poll Finds

The New York Times

Michael M. Grynbaum, City Hall Bureau Chief

Alexander Burns, Political Correspondent

Dalia Sussman, Polling Editor

Nearing the midpoint of his term, Mayor Bill de Blasio is confronting a city that is deeply divided about his ability to lead, with his efforts to create a more liberal New York overshadowed by growing worries about homelessness and crime, a new poll finds.

Nowhere is that concern more visible than among a group, long cool to Mr. de Blasio, that he has now decisively lost: whites.

Just 28 percent of white New Yorkers approve of the Democratic mayor’s performance, and 59 percent now disapprove, up sharply from the start of his term, according to a citywide poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College. Nearly half say that the city is a worse place to live under his watch — only 9 percent say it is better — and 51 percent say New York is now less safe, even as crime statistics reach historic lows.

Over all, 52 percent of New Yorkers say the city is on the wrong track, including 62 percent of whites and 51 percent of Hispanics. Black residents are evenly split…

…Mr. de Blasio, whose black wife and biracial children are central to his image as a champion of multiethnic New York, secured his mayoralty with substantial black support. But he also won in white liberal enclaves like brownstone Brooklyn and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, places where his stock has since fallen…

Read the entire article here.

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Amber Guild of Collins: Call Out the Elephant in the Room

Posted in Articles, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-17 19:32Z by Steven

Amber Guild of Collins: Call Out the Elephant in the Room

The New York Times

Adam Bryant, Corner Office Columnist and Deputy Science Editor

This interview with Amber Guild, president of Collins, a brand consultancy, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. What were some early influences for you?

A. I grew up in two different homes. I had my father’s home in New Jersey and my mother’s home in New York City.

Tell me more about your parents.

They never married. They became good friends, had me and then they separated. My dad later moved out to New Jersey with my stepmom, and my mother was in New York. Both were very politically active. I probably went to my first demonstration before I could walk. We were always protesting something or other at a rally.

And I grew up in these two different cultural households. My dad’s household was all white, and my mother and my two older sisters are black. I’m the only one who’s biracial. So I found myself always being a bridge in terms of culture and different classes.

In my home in the city, we were poor. My dad’s household was working-class, but there was always food on the table. Growing up with those two very distinct experiences started to form my relationship with the world and with people in different communities, and seeing both differences and similarities.

Then, to top it all off, I ended up getting a scholarship to boarding school in Connecticut when I was 14, which was another radically different culture and experience…

Read the entire interview here.

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Rescuing Discarded Images of Everyday Black Life

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-27 00:52Z by Steven

Rescuing Discarded Images of Everyday Black Life

The New York Times

David Gonzalez, Side Street Columnist

Who throws away family photos? How do faded, blurry squares that chronicled weddings, ballgames and goofy moments at home end up abandoned, tossed to the curb or in boxes bought sight unseen at storage auctions?

Zun Lee has been wondering about this ever since he stumbled upon a dozen Polaroids scattered on a Detroit sidewalk. He had gone to Motown as part of his work on “Father Figure,” his book about African-American fatherhood. The sight of those images — children playing in a yard — stopped him. He asked around, but no one knew who was in the pictures. And while someone didn’t want these images, Mr. Lee did: They showed an ordinary beauty. Their fate hinted at hard times. Yet, in a frozen moment, they showed their subjects with love.

Mr. Lee was hooked. He started to haunt flea markets, yard sales and eBay in search of more of these images, to the point that he now has some 3,500 of them, ranging from the 1970s through the 2000s. Taken in a time before Instagram or Everyday Black America, they accomplish the same thing: to show African-American life as it was lived…

…The idea itself is also, for him, a response to how African-American communities have been depicted, something he cares about as the son of a Korean mother and an African-American father. Tired of the conventional wisdom that African-American fathers were absent, he set out to show a contrary reality. Similarly, his interest in collecting family pictures and turning them into a project was a response to “Found Pictures in Detroit,” a project and book by two Italian photographers who also showcased discarded images, with many of them showing crime scenes, suspects and victims…

Read the entire article and view the slide show here.

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But Obama became everybody’s problem. He was black. He was white. He was hope. He was apocalypse. And he brought a lot of anxiety into weird relief. We had never really had a white president until we had a black one.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-10-16 20:50Z by Steven

Before Obama ran for president, when we tended to talk about racial identity, we did so as the defense of a settlement. Black was understood to be black, nontransferably. Negro intellectuals — Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray and James Baldwin, for starters — debated strategies for equality and tolerance. Some of them asserted that to be black was also to be American, even if America begged to differ. For most of those many decades, blackness stood in opposition to whiteness, which folded its arms and said that was black people’s problem. But Obama became everybody’s problem. He was black. He was white. He was hope. He was apocalypse. And he brought a lot of anxiety into weird relief. We had never really had a white president until we had a black one.

Wesley Morris, “The Year We Obsessed Over Identity,” The New York Times, October 6, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/magazine/the-year-we-obsessed-over-identity.html.

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The Year We Obsessed Over Identity

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-15 01:40Z by Steven

The Year We Obsessed Over Identity

The New York Times

Wesley Morris, Critic at Large

2015’s headlines and cultural events have confronted us with the malleability of racial, gender, sexual and reputational lines. Who do we think we are?

A few weeks ago, I sat in a movie theater and grinned. Anne Hathaway was in ‘‘The Intern,’’ perched on a hotel bed in a hotel robe, eating from a can of overpriced nuts, having tea and freaking out. What would happen if she divorced her sweet, selfless stay-at-home dad of a husband? Would she ever meet anybody else? And if she didn’t, she would have no one to be buried next to — she’d be single for all eternity. And weren’t the problems in her marriage a direct result of her being a successful businesswoman — she was there but never quite present? ‘‘The Intern’’ is a Nancy Meyers movie, and these sorts of cute career-woman meltdowns are the Eddie Van Halen guitar solos of her romantic comedies.

But what’s funny about that scene — what had me grinning — is the response of the person across the bed from Hathaway. After listening to her tearful rant, this person has had enough: Don’t you dare blame yourself or your career! Actually, the interruption begins, ‘‘I hate to be the feminist, of the two of us. … ’’ Hate to be because the person on the other side of the bed isn’t Judy Greer or Brie Larson. It’s not Meryl Streep or Susan Sarandon. It’s someone not far from the last person who comes to mind when you think ‘‘soul-baring bestie.’’ It’s Robert freaking De Niro, portrayer of psychos, savages and grouches no more.

On that bed with Hathaway, as her 70-year-old intern, he’s not Travis Bickle or the human wall of intolerance from those Focker movies. He’s Lena Dunham. The attentiveness and stern feminism coming out of his mouth are where the comedy is. And while it’s perfectly obvious what Meyers is doing to De Niro — girlfriending him — that doesn’t make the overhaul any less effective. The whole movie is about the subtle and obvious ways in which men have been overly sensitized and women made self-estranged through breadwinning. It’s both a plaint against the present and a pining for the past, but also an acceptance that we are where we are…

In June, the story of a woman named Rachel Dolezal began its viral spread through the news. She had recently been appointed president of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. in Spokane, Wash. She had been married to a black man, had two black sons and was, by most accounts, a black woman. Her white biological parents begged to differ. The ensuing scandal resurrected questions about the nature of identity — what compelled Dolezal to darken her skin, perm her hair and pass in reverse? She might not have been biologically black, but she seemed well past feeling spiritually white.

Some people called her ‘‘transracial.’’ Others found insult in her masquerade, particularly when the country’s attention was being drawn, day after day, to how dangerous it can be to have black skin. The identities of the black men and women killed by white police officers and civilians, under an assortment of violent circumstances, remain fixed.

But there was something oddly compelling about Dolezal, too. She represented — dementedly but also earnestly — a longing to transcend our historical past and racialized present. This is a country founded on independence and yet comfortable with racial domination, a country that has forever been trying to legislate the lines between whiteness and nonwhiteness, between borrowing and genocidal theft. We’ve wanted to think we’re better than a history we can’t seem to stop repeating. Dolezal’s unwavering certainty that she was black was a measure of how seriously she believed in integration: It was as if she had arrived in a future that hadn’t yet caught up to her…

Read the entire article here.

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The Invisible Asian

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2015-10-11 02:31Z by Steven

The Invisible Asian

The New York Times

George Yancy, Professor of Philosophy
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

David Haekwon Kim, Associate Professor of Philosophy
University of San Francisco

This is the latest in a series of interviews about philosophy of race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with David Haekwon Kim, an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Global Humanities initiative at the University of San Francisco and the author of several essays on Asian-American identity. — George Yancy

George Yancy: A great deal of philosophical work on race begins with the white/black binary. As a Korean-American, in what ways does race mediate or impact your philosophical identity?

David Haekwon Kim: In doing philosophy, I often approach normative issues with concerns about lived experience, cultural difference, political subordination, and social movements changing conditions of agency. I think these sensibilities are due in large part to my experience of growing up bicultural, raced, and gendered in the U.S., a country that has never really faced up to its exclusionary and often violent anti-Asian practices. In fact, I am sometimes amazed that I have left so many tense racialized encounters with both my life and all my teeth. In other contexts, life and limb were not at issue, but I did not emerge with my self-respect intact.

These sensibilities have also been formed by learning a history of Asian-Americans that is more complex than the conventional watered-down immigrant narrative. This more discerning, haunting, and occasionally beautiful history includes reference to institutional anti-Asian racism, a cultural legacy of sexualized racism, a colonial U.S. presence in East Asia and the Pacific Islands, and some truly inspiring social struggles by Asians, Asian-Americans, and other communities of color…

Read the entire interview here.

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