As mentioned above, Columbia’s refusal to admit black students into the University created the conditions that encouraged black students to pass as white, and James Parker Barnett may be a case of just that. However, the only reason we know about James Parker Barnett was because he was CAUGHT.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-12-04 01:30Z by Steven

The extent to which elite universities like Columbia worked to keep black students outside their walls makes the accomplishments of Columbia’s hailed “first” black graduates even more impressive, as these students existed within institutions that found identity through racialized exclusivity. That being said, James Parker Barnett’s story highlights a problem with these narratives of “firsts”, not only within Columbia University, but at historically white institutions across the United States. As mentioned above, Columbia’s refusal to admit black students into the University created the conditions that encouraged black students to pass as white, and James Parker Barnett may be a case of just that. However, the only reason we know about James Parker Barnett was because he was caught. There were high levels of racial mixing occurring in the United States through the 1850s when Barnett was expelled from P&S [School of Physicians and Scientists], and estimates about the frequency of racial passing are contentious. Walter White, a famous fair-skinned black man who passed as white while doing investigative work for the NAACP, estimated that “approximately 12,000 white-skinned Negroes disappear” into white society every year”.52 Roi Ottley, a famous African-American journalist in the early 1900s, claimed that there were approximately five million white-passing black people with forty to fifty thousand passing into whiteness every year.53 While these men lived in the early to mid-1900’s, well past Barnett’s time, their research proves that racial passing had become increasingly common as African descendants continued to mix with those of white ancestry. I argue that this information lends itself to the idea that it was highly unlikely that Barnett, if indeed passing, was the first nor the last black individual to pass as white at Columbia University before it officially began accepting black students. How then, can the university endeavor to honor the “first black” students at Columbia if it has no way of knowing the identities of black passers who, by racial standards of the time, were the first graduating students of African “blood”?

Ciara Keane, “Blurring the Lines: James Parker Barnett, Racial Passing, and Invisible Early Black Students at Columbia University,” Columbia University and Slavery, 2018. https://columbiaandslavery.columbia.edu/content/blurring-lines-james-parker-barnett-racial-passing-and-invisible-early-black-students.

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Blurring the Lines: James Parker Barnett, Racial Passing, and Invisible Early Black Students at Columbia University

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, Census/Demographics, History, Law, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2021-11-15 22:01Z by Steven

Blurring the Lines: James Parker Barnett, Racial Passing, and Invisible Early Black Students at Columbia University

Columbia University and Slavery
Columbia University, New York, New York
2018

Ciara Keane

Discussions of racial passing have never been simple, as racial passing involves the traversing of social systems and the manipulation of power structures in a way that is often unsettling. Racial passing, according to Randall Kennedy, is a “deception that enables a person to adopt certain roles or identities from which he would be barred by prevailing social standards in the absence of his misleading conduct”.1 The most typical form of passing that has historically occurred in the United States is that of a black person passing as a white person; in other words, a person who has black ancestry that would societally deem him to be black moving throughout society identifying and performing as a white person. It is important to distinguish between a passer and a person who is not aware of their racial ancestry; while a passer is actively cognizant of their background and intentionally living as another race, many individuals are simply unaware of their race and fully believe themselves to be of the race they are living as, even though the facts of their racial ancestry would classify them as a different race than the one they identify as.2 The reasons for racial passing vary, but individuals usually decide to pass in order to reap the benefits that come with being of the race they are passing as. For example, a person may pass in order to access better job prospects, receive a higher level of education, or to occupy any other space that was typically off limits for their race.3

In a society like that of the United States which exists as a social hierarchy stratified by race and class, racial passers have been considered a significant threat to the structures that uphold white supremacy. For white people in America, “the core of ‘the American national character’ was a denial of legitimacy and privilege based exclusively on descent”.4 In other words, American society was and is inherently structured based on the hoarding of privilege by the white race and the denial of this privilege to minority groups, which above all applies to African-Americans. Therefore, minorities who pass as white pose a grave threat to the maintenance of this structure, as the act of passing blurs the barrier between the privileged elite and the oppressed. Although the infamous one-drop rule was not formally adopted until the 1920s5, the American South’s desire to hold onto the racial caste created by slavery led the entire nation to spend the years of 1850 to 1915 “turning from a society in which some blackness in a person might be overlooked to one in which no single iota of color was excused”.6 States like North Carolina and Virginia had laws prior to the solidification of the one-drop rule within the 18th and 19th century that defined as white those with less than one-fourth, one-eighth, or one-sixteenth African “blood”, but these rules were always overridden by rules of slavery which could deem even a person with one-sixty-fourth black “blood” to be black if their mother was a slave.7 By time the one-drop rule was written into law, which classified a person as black if they had any hint of African “blood” no matter how small and no matter their phenotypical appearance, any advantage that Mulattos may have enjoyed post-slavery that elevated them slightly above Black people without any white “blood” had long disappeared, and Mulattoes had been solidified as indistinguishable from any other member of the black race.8

Read the entire article here.

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Japan Reborn: Mixed-Race Children, Eugenic Nationalism, and the Politics of Sex after World War II

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, United States on 2017-04-06 01:29Z by Steven

Japan Reborn: Mixed-Race Children, Eugenic Nationalism, and the Politics of Sex after World War II

Columbia University
2015
DOI: 10.7916/D83F4NS4

Kristin A. Roebuck, ‎Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in History
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

In April 1952, Japan emerged from Allied occupation free, peaceful, and democratic.

Japan’s presses marked the occasion by declaring a state of crisis: the “konketsuji [mixed-blood children] crisis.” By all accounts, Allied soldiers had sired and abandoned two hundred thousand “mixed-blood” orphans in Japan. However, Chapter One reveals this to be a fabricated crisis or “moral panic.” Surveys found only a few thousand konketsuji nationwide, very few of them orphans. Yet these discoveries did little to change the tenor of “crisis.” Opposition politicians deployed wrath and fear over “blood mixing” to discredit the dominant Liberal Party and its alliance with the United States. They were abetted by an array of postwar activists who used the “crisis” to reconstruct Japanese nationalism, laid low by defeat and occupation, on a new basis: the “pure” race rather than the failed state.

Chapter Two explores how the panic over “blood mixing” inevitably embroiled not just children but women as well. Japanese women were subject to intense pressures to eschew sex and family formation with Western men, and to abort “mixed” fetuses on eugenic grounds rather than bear them to term. 1948 marked the beginning of the end of criminal prosecution of abortion in Japan. The law that inaugurated this shift, the Eugenic Protection Law (EPL), is generally viewed as an advancement in women’s rights, despite the fact that the EPL envisioned and promoted the use of abortion as a means of managing the “quality and quantity” of Japan’s population.

Scholarship on the links between eugenics and the decriminalization of abortion in Japan is vast, but scholars have yet to probe deeply into how eugenic abortion was applied to control—or forestall—“race mixing” after the war. Although it was politically impossible for the government to impose abortions outright on women who might be pregnant with the children of Japan’s conquerors, such women were nonetheless targeted for eugenic intervention. For these women, abortion was not an option granted in a liberal democracy concerned with women’s rights. Abortion was an imperative imposed by a diverse array of governmental and non-governmental actors united behind an ideology of “pure blood.”

Chapter Three explains how postwar scientific presses framed konketsuji born in the wake of World War II as an unprecedented presence. Geneticists, physical anthropologists, clinicians, and other researchers from the late 1940s through the 1970s deployed a “system of silences” to erase Japan’s prewar konketsuji community from view. They thereby not only constructed the Japanese as a racial community bounded by “pure blood,” but denied that the racialized nation ever had or ever could assimilate foreign elements. Scientific spokesmen effected the discursive purification of Japan despite resistance from “mixed-blood” adults who organized to contest the rising tide of racial nationalism. In the process, these scientists severely undercut the “mixed” community’s advocacy of a civically rather than biologically constituted nation.

Chapter Four contrasts the decline of race science and eugenics in the West with their efflorescence in postwar Japan, where conditions of occupation heightened the relevance of racial eugenics as a prescription for national unity and strength. It is well known that Anglophone genetics and physical anthropology were led at the mid-century by immigrants and minorities, prominently including Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ashley Montagu. Yet without comparative analysis, it is difficult to weigh the significance of this fact, or of the fact that minorities did not lead the Japanese sciences. Japanese geneticists and anthropologists who identified as having “pure Japanese blood” never questioned that biopolitical category or the costs it imposed on those it excluded.

I argue that who practiced science counts for much more than is allowed by objectivist narratives of self-correcting scientific “progress.” My project explains for the first time why racial nationalism and an ethos of ethnic cleansing triumphed in Japan at the very moment these forces receded in other contexts.

Embargoed until 2017-06-30.

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The Strange Career of William Ellis: Texas Slave to Mexican Millionaire

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2017-03-12 01:45Z by Steven

The Strange Career of William Ellis: Texas Slave to Mexican Millionaire

Columbia News: Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Columbia University, New York, New York
2016-06-28


Karl Jacoby

The odds were certainly against William Henry Ellis, who was born into slavery on a Texas cotton plantation near the Mexico border.

But a combination of sheer moxie, an ability to speak Spanish and an olive skin allowed Ellis to reinvent himself. By the turn of the 20th century, he was Guillermo Enrique Eliseo, a successful Mexican entrepreneur with an office on Wall Street, an apartment on Central Park West and business dealings with companies and corporations halfway around the world.

His unusual life story is told in a new book titled The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire by Karl Jacoby, a professor in the history department and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Ellis “learned how to be what people wanted him to be, and how to be sure that people would see what they want to see,” Jacoby said…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Barry’ director on race, identity and why the young Obama matters

Posted in Articles, Arts, Barack Obama, Biography, Media Archive on 2016-12-20 20:00Z by Steven

‘Barry’ director on race, identity and why the young Obama matters

Mashtable
2016-12-20

Proma Khosla

Vikram Gandhi didn’t direct the Netflix biopic Barry because he cared about Barack Obama. He made it because he cared about a kid named Barry.

Gandhi set out to discover who Barack was before he was Barack, back in 1981. The film follows a portion of Obama’s life then as a student at Columbia University, and how it shaped who he would grow up to be.

“I don’t know who Barack Obama is,” Gandhi told Mashable in a phone interview. “I didn’t study that. I studied who Barry was. I related with Barry. The things that he’s struggling with are things that people around me have struggled with, I’ve struggled with, and I think that I still struggle with. Barack Obama’s the president; I have no idea what that’s like, but I know what it’s like to be a confused kid, a 20-year-old kid in New York City trying to figure out where you belong.”

The 1981 iteration of Barack Obama held particular resonance for Gandhi, who studied at Columbia some 17 years later. He remembered the classes, the bars, the diners — he even lived next door to the building that once housed a future president. The film is an intersection of two identity crises: What it means to grow up and what it means to be mixed race in America…

Read the entire article here.

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“So, What Are You?”

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2016-10-05 14:05Z by Steven

“So, What Are You?”

Columbia Daily Spectator
New York, New York
2016-10-04

Alexandra Peebles and Eliza Solomon


Members of the Mixed Heritage Society at a club meeting. (Jared Orellana / Staff Photographer)

“For me, personally, thinking of myself as defined by race has never really worked, because I don’t fit in with the Asians, [and] I don’t fit in with white people,” Zina Sockwell, a Columbia College senior, explains when asked about her identity as a mixed-heritage student.

Sockwell is half Korean on her mother’s side and a quarter Native American on her father’s side, and she identifies as mixed heritage. Her entire “nuclear family” is Asian, white, and Native American. Growing up, Sockwell did not feel different or perplexed by her mixed background. “I didn’t realize for a long time that I was mixed race—I was just a person, in a family. I was a Sockwell; that’s what was normal,” she says matter-of-factly.

But when Sockwell got to college, things were different. When the Mixed Heritage Society (previously known as the Mixed-Race Students Society) debuted on campus in the spring of 2015, it filled what some saw as a glaring cavity by providing an identity-based discussion space for students like Sockwell. These students don’t identify strictly with one race or ethnicity, and as a result must combat the pressure to define themselves as belonging to one specific culture. The club set out to meet a need for the students who wanted to share their often unique experiences with their fellow “mixed” classmates…

Read the entire article here.

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Blending shades of self

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Campus Life, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-06 02:27Z by Steven

Blending shades of self

Columbia Daily Spectator
New York, New York
2015-11-05

Caroline Wallis

At a place like Columbia, where how you identify can define the spaces you occupy and the people you interact with, being of mixed race presents an extra challenge. The balancing act between multiple cultures, communities, and colors can leave one wondering where they belong. Last year, Keenan Smith, Columbia College sophomore, founded the Mixed-Race Students Society, which created a forum for multiracial students to discuss issues that directly affect those who don’t fit in one box. The students profiled in this piece aren’t all members of the Society, but they all represent an emerging community of students bringing these conversations into our discussions of race on campus…

Read the entire article here.

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New group looks to bring together mixed-race students

Posted in Articles, Canada, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-13 18:57Z by Steven

New group looks to bring together mixed-race students

Columbia Daily Spectator
New York, New York
2015-04-08

Marium Dar, Spectator Staff Writer

A new student group is hoping to create a safe space for mixed-race students to discuss the challenges and struggles they face when discussing self-identity and racialization.

The Mixed-Race Students Society of Columbia University, which was founded last month, holds biweekly discussions where members take on topics including the difference between identification and racialization.

“As an organization, we have shared form and not content. The form of our experiences is the same,” board member Eliana Pipes, CC ’18, said. “Even though we all have completely different backgrounds, completely different mixes, we can identify on that common ground.”.

“The mixed-race [experience] is its own unique racial experience. If you are mixed with black, then you can never have the black experience on its own,” Pipes said. “If you are mixed with white, then you can never have the white experience on its own.”

Group founder Keenan Smith, CC ’18, who identifies as half black and half white, said he feels a tension between the two parts of his racial background…

…While a group called Hapa [Club] aimed to carry out a similar mission for students of partial Asian descent, it has been inactive since 2013. Smith said he wanted to create a community for students who felt marginalized based on their multiracial background…

Read the entire article here.

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Making Race: Biology and the Evolution of the Race Concept in 20 Century American Thought

Posted in Dissertations, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-04-23 20:41Z by Steven

Making Race: Biology and the Evolution of the Race Concept in 20 Century American Thought

Columbia University
December 2008
309 pages

Michael Yudell

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy under the Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

At the dawn of the 21st century the idea of race—the belief that the peoples of the world can be organized into biologically distinctive groups, each with its own discrete physical, social and intellectual characteristics—is seen by most natural and social scientists as unsound and unscientific. Race and racism, while drawn from the visual cues of human diversity, are ideas with a measurable past, identifiable present, and uncertain future. They are concepts that change with time and place; the changes themselves products of a range of variables including time, place, geography, politics, science, and economics. As much as scientists once thought that race and racism were reflections of physical or biological differences, today social scientists, with help from colleagues in the natural sciences, have shown that the once scientific concept of race is in fact a product of history with an unmistakable impact on the American story. This dissertation examines the history of the biological race concept during the 20th century, studying how the biological sciences helped to shape thinking about human difference. This work argues that in the 20th century biology and genetics became the arbiter of the meaning of race. This work also brings the story of the evolution of the race concept to the present by examining the early impact of the genomic sciences on race, and by placing it in a contemporary public health context.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Dedication
  • Preface
  • Introduction: The Permanence of Race
  • Chapter 1: A Eugenic Foundation
  • Chapter 2: Making Race A Biological Difference
  • Chapter 3: Race Problems for Biology
  • Chapter 4: Consolidating the Biological Race Concept
  • Chapter 5: Race in the Molecular Age
  • Conclusion: Race, Genomics, and the Public’s Health
  • Bibliography

Read the entire dissertation here.

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SOCI W 3277x: Post-Racial America?

Posted in Course Offerings, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-09-03 04:05Z by Steven

SOCI W 3277x: Post-Racial America?

Barnard College, Columbia University
Fall 2011

Alondra Nelson, Associate Professor of Sociology

What is race? Is the US a post-racial society? Is such a society desirable? Is a post-racial society necessarily a just and egalitarian one? We consider these questions from ethnographic, historical, and theoretical perspectives. Topics discussed include intersectionality, multiracial identity, colorism, genetics, and the race and/or class debate.

For more information, click here.

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