Sally Hemings wasn’t Thomas Jefferson’s mistress. She was his property.

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2017-07-13 00:09Z by Steven

Sally Hemings wasn’t Thomas Jefferson’s mistress. She was his property.

The Washington Post
2017-07-07

Britni Danielle


The room at Monticello where Sally Hemings is believed to have lived. (Norm Shafer/For The Washington Post)

Archaeologists at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation, Monticello, are unearthing the room where Sally Hemings is believed to have lived, allowing for a new way to tell the story of the enslaved people who served our third president. The excavation has once again reminded us that 241 years after the United States was founded, many Americans still don’t know how to reconcile one of our nation’s original sins with the story of its Founding Fathers.

Just before the Fourth of July, NBC News ran a feature on the room, setting off a spate of coverage about the dig. Many of these stories described Hemings, the mother of six children with Jefferson, as the former president’s “mistress.” The Inquisitr, the Daily Mail, AOL and Cox Media Group all used the word (though Cox later updated its wording). So did an NBC News tweet that drew scathing criticism, though its story accurately called her “the enslaved woman who, historians believe, gave birth to six of Jefferson’s children.” The Washington Post also used “mistress” in a headline and a tweet about Hemings’s room in February.

Language like that elides the true nature of their relationship, which is believed to have begun when Hemings, then 14 years old, accompanied Jefferson’s daughter to live with Jefferson, then 44, in Paris. She wasn’t Jefferson’s mistress; she was his property. And he raped her…

Read the entire article here.

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A boy caught between love and race

Posted in Arts, Book/Video Reviews, United States on 2017-06-22 00:28Z by Steven

A boy caught between love and race

Books
The Washington Post
2017-06-15

Ausma Zehanat Khan


Thrity Umrigar, the author (Robert Muller)

Thrity Umrigar, Everybody’s Son, A Novel (New York: HarperCollins, 2017)

The premise of Thrity Umrigar’s new novel, “Everybody’s Son,” is straightforward: a wealthy white family whose son has died adopts a black child from the projects. Through this disturbing yet evocative tale, Umrigar — best known for her books “The Space Between Us” and “The World We Found” — offers a troubling look at race and the conflicting desires of two families.

At the center of the story is Anton Vesper, a little boy whose mother, Juanita, is addicted to crack. She left Anton alone in a hot basement for days before he broke out and is rescued by the local police. Shortly thereafter, Anton meets a judge named David Coleman who happens to be struggling with the loss of his own child. In Anton, Coleman sees a charismatic child. He decides to bring Anton home, almost as a consolation prize for his grieving wife, Delores…

…Though Coleman is treated sympathetically throughout the novel, he is shadowed by his corrupt morality. There is no eluding it: Coleman destroyed a woman’s life by taking her child and using his wealth, power and whiteness against her. He has also robbed a child of his heritage, raising difficult questions for readers to ponder:

Would Coleman have wanted Anton if he were a dark-skinned black child, if he hadn’t been able to blend so effortlessly into his world? We later learn that Anton is bi-racial, perhaps explaining this. Would a black mother view blackness as a curse that a white man’s wealth and status could provide compensation for?…

Read the entire review here.

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The debate over who counts as ‘American’ is nothing new

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2017-05-06 00:31Z by Steven

The debate over who counts as ‘American’ is nothing new

The Washington Post
2015-05-04

Alex Laughlin


(Illustration by Chris Kindred for The Washington Post))

Virginia Matsuoka was 10 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

She was playing tag football with her older brothers when her mother came outside and told them what had happened.

“And I remember my father came up behind me there,” Matsuoka said. “He put his arm around me and he said, ‘This is so bad, Ginger. This is bad.’”

Matsuoka’s mother was American and white, but her father was Japanese. By April 1942, her family was torn apart. Her father was working in Colorado, spared a stint in the internment camps because he had helpful law enforcement connections. He taught martial arts to police officers there. Two of her brothers were serving in the U.S. Army. And Matsuoka and two of her other brothers were in the Tanforan Assembly Center, an internment camp built around a racetrack near San Francisco.

Despite being displaced and separated, Matsuoka and her family remained patriotic. She recalls asking her father what it was like for her: “He said, ‘You know, Ginger, this was my country. I came here, they gave me the opportunity to make a name for myself, and then the war came along so you do things that you’ve got to do.’”

Hear Matsuoka recall her experiences in Tanforan and talk about what it was like returning to school after being separated from her friends and family…

Listen to the podcast (00:15:59) here.

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The long history and legacy of passing in America

Posted in Articles, Audio, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2017-05-04 22:30Z by Steven

The long history and legacy of passing in America

The Washington Post
2017-05-03

Alex Laughlin


(Illustration by Chris Kindred for The Washington Post)

Anita Hemmings was Vassar College’s first African American graduate. But no one was supposed to know that she was black.

A light-skinned mixed-race woman, Hemmings passed as white for most of her time at Vassar — until her roommate hired a private investigator to find out the truth.

Hemmings graduated college in 1897 and continued passing as white for the rest of her life. Her story fits in with a broader history of African Americans passing in this country for personal safety, economic and social reasons.

In this episode of “Other: Mixed Race in America,” we learn the story of Hemmings, and we also learn about the legacy of passing that is inherited through generations of mixed-race Americans…

Listen to the podcast (00:19:12) here.

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Race is more than just black and white. This new podcast explores some of that middle ground.

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2017-04-25 02:57Z by Steven

Race is more than just black and white. This new podcast explores some of that middle ground.

The Washington Post
201-04-24

Alex Laughlin


(Illustration by Chris Kindred)

There’s this literary theory called the “mulatto canary in the coal mine.”

It holds that the treatment and depictions of mixed-race people in art and culture is a reflection of the broader state of race relations in America at that moment. The theory has been applied to works throughout American history, from Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, “Passing,” to Danzy Senna’sCaucasia” in 1999.

These multiracial characters, their very bodies providing evidence of racial lines crossed, are marked by confusion and betrayal, jealousy and cowardice, and most frequently, a tragic ending.

Well, it’s 2017 — 50 years since the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision invalidated anti-miscegenation laws across the country. It’s been legal to cross these racial lines for five decades now, almost two full generations. What does it mean to be mixed race in America today?

I suppose I should tell you a little about myself and why I’m so interested in this topic…

Read the entire article here.

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Ironically, then, in manifesting her blackness she most flagrantly manifests her whiteness.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-03-30 02:12Z by Steven

Just as [Donald] Trump cannot seem to utter “the African Americans” sans “inner city,” [Rachel] Dolezal’s conception of blackness is steeped in a fetishizing of struggle, pain and oppression. Opting into the struggle is yet another place where her whiteness acutely rears its head. The choice to take on a racial mantle at will is a mark of white privilege; so, too, is the choice to take it off when it suits. Ironically, then, in manifesting her blackness she most flagrantly manifests her whiteness.

Baz Dreisinger, “When saying you’re black and being black are two different things,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/when-saying-youre-black-and-being-black-are-two-different-things/2017/03/24/d41a6590-0a4b-11e7-93dc-00f9bdd74ed1_story.html.

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When saying you’re black and being black are two different things

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2017-03-28 18:45Z by Steven

When saying you’re black and being black are two different things

The Washington Post
2017-03-24

Baz Dreisinger, Associate Professor of English
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York


Rachel Dolezal faced a backlash when it was revealed in 2015 that the NAACP and Black Lives Matter activist was not black, as she presented herself to be, but in fact white. (Colin Mulvany/Associated Press)

Baz Dreisinger, a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is the author of “Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture” and “Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World.”

Back in 2015, I was fascinated by the scandal that swirled around Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter activist who turned out to be a once-blonde white woman from Montana passing herself off as black. Dolezal went further than that: She said she wasn’t posing as black but actually was black — because she feels black. I made the rounds on the talk shows at the time, having published a book about the cultural history of such reverse racial passing, and avidly tried to explain notions of transraciality.

Now Dolezal has published a memoir, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” I hesitated to review it. Expending intellectual energy on one woman’s racial hoax seems a luxury of the pre-Trump era. And Dolezal’s increasingly bizarre story seems more tabloid fodder than a subject for serious analysis. But then I read her book, and the educator in me felt compelled to speak out. Dolezal has written an important book, one that belongs on syllabi as a case study in the mechanisms of white liberal racism. She has provided a teachable moment to expose the dodgy ideologies she may not even realize she’s espousing…

Read the entire article here.

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The NFL has effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-03-24 18:48Z by Steven

The NFL has effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick

The Washington Post
2017-03-23

Kevin B. Blackistone, Visiting Professor
Philip Merrill College of Journalism
University of Maryland

A week before Christmas 1996, Craig Hodges, who twice during his 10 NBA seasons was the league’s best three-point shooter, filed a federal lawsuit against the NBA. He charged that the league colluded to end his career four seasons earlier.

Hodges contended the league was upset that he showed up at the White House with Michael Jordan and his other teammates from the 1991 NBA champion Bulls draped in a dashiki — a traditional West African tunic popularized here during the Black Power movement — and exercised utter audacity by presenting their host, President George H.W. Bush, with a two-page letter calling for the plight of people of color and the poor in this country to be prioritized in Bush’s domestic agenda.

A week into 1998, the court dismissed Hodges’s complaint. His career effectively died when the Bulls waived him following their second championship in 1992.

But Hodges’s story was revived with the advent of this NFL offseason’s free agency period. He’s been reincarnated in Colin Kaepernick. To be sure, Kaepernick managed the 17th-best quarterback rating last season among starters while coming back from injury. His touchdown percentage was 13th best, better than Washington’s Kirk Cousins, who wound up in the Pro Bowl and with a new franchise-tag contract worth $24 million next season. His interception percentage was sixth, just behind Aaron Rodgers and just ahead of MVP Matt Ryan

Read the entire article here.

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Sorry, but the Irish were always ‘white’ (and so were Italians, Jews and so on)

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-24 01:22Z by Steven

Sorry, but the Irish were always ‘white’ (and so were Italians, Jews and so on)

The Washington Post
2017-03-22

David Bernstein, George Mason University Foundation Professor
George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, Virginia


Immigrants after their arrival in Ellis Island by ship in 1902. (Ullstein Bild via Getty Images)

Whiteness studies” is all the rage these days. My friends who teach U.S. history have told me that this perspective has “completely taken over” studies of American ethnic history. I can’t vouch for that, but I do know that I constantly see people assert, as a matter of “fact,” that Irish, Italian, Jewish and other “ethnic” white American were not considered to be “white” until sometime in the mid-to-late 20th century, vouching for the fact that this understanding of American history has spread widely.

The relevant scholarly literature seems to have started with Noel Ignatiev’s book “How the Irish Became White,” and taken off from there. But what the relevant authors mean by white is ahistorical. They are referring to a stylized, sociological or anthropological understanding of “whiteness,” which means either “fully socially accepted as the equals of Americans of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic stock,” or, in the more politicized version, “an accepted part of the dominant ruling class in the United States.”

Those may be interesting sociological and anthropological angles to pursue, but it has nothing to do with whether the relevant groups were considered to be white…

Read the entire article here.

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Why You Can’t Ever Call an Enslaved Woman a “Mistress”

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2017-03-05 22:16Z by Steven

Why You Can’t Ever Call an Enslaved Woman a “Mistress”

Teen Vogue
2017-02-27

Lincoln Blades

This is an important Black History Month PSA.

In the black community, many different opinions abound regarding the usefulness of Black History Month. For some, it is viewed as a necessary and critical tool for cultural celebration and propagating the importance of our collective historical achievements, which otherwise would go unnoticed. For others, it feels like a reductive display of forced lip service conducted during the shortest and coldest month of the year, in lieu of providing us with a more sustained and inclusive role in the everyday curriculum. But what we all can agree on is that presenting our history in a wholly accurate and factual manner delivered with the correct context is of the utmost importance, which is why we react so strongly to inaccurate and/or misrepresentative claims.

That irritation was inflamed this past weekend when The Washington Post published an article about a restoration that would be occurring at Monticello, the plantation of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, which is operated as a museum. The restoration to be completed will involve unmasking a bathroom installed in 1941 just steps from Jefferson’s bedroom to reveal what the room really was: Sally Hemings’s bedroom…

Read the entire article here.

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