I am the “Rashida Jones” version of biracial. I have white skin and dark brown, wavy hair — people always assume I’m white.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-05-18 18:20Z by Steven

I am the “Rashida Jones” version of biracial. I have white skin and dark brown, wavy hair — people always assume I’m white. Mariah Carey, who has a white mother and a black, Venezuelan father, was the only white-looking biracial person I knew of growing up. She was the biracial role model I needed, and I often thought of her when I struggled with the constant denial and questioning I faced whenever I told someone I was part black.

Sarah E. Gaither, “I study biracial identity in America. Here’s why Meghan Markle is a big deal.Vox, May 18, 2018. https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/5/14/17345162/meghan-markle-royal-wedding-2018-race.

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Crossing B(l)ack: Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-02-07 00:30Z by Steven

Crossing B(l)ack: Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture

University of Tennessee Press
150 pages
Cloth ISBN-10: 1572339322; ISBN-13: 978-1572339323

Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins, Associate Professor of English
Florida Atlantic University

The past two decades have seen a growing influx of biracial discourse in fiction, memoir, and theory, and since the 2008 election of Barack Obama to the presidency, debates over whether America has entered a “post-racial” phase have set the media abuzz. In this penetrating and provocative study, Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins adds a new dimension to this dialogue as she investigates the ways in which various mixed-race writers and public figures have redefined both “blackness” and “whiteness” by invoking multiple racial identities.

Focusing on several key novels—Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928), Lucinda Roy’s Lady Moses (1998), and Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1998)—as well as memoirs by Obama, James McBride, and Rebecca Walker and the personae of singer Mariah Carey and actress Halle Berry, Dagbovie-Mullins challenges conventional claims about biracial identification with a concept she calls “black-sentient mixed-race identity.” Whereas some multiracial organizations can diminish blackness by, for example, championing the inclusion of multiple-race options on census forms and similar documents, a black-sentient consciousness stresses a perception rooted in blackness—“a connection to a black consciousness,” writes the author, “that does not overdetermine but still plays a large role in one’s racial identification.” By examining the nuances of this concept through close readings of fiction, memoir, and the public images of mixed-race celebrities, Dagbovie-Mullins demonstrates how a “black-sentient mixed-race identity reconciles the widening separation between black/white mixed race and blackness that has been encouraged by contemporary mixed-race politics and popular culture.”

A book that promises to spark new debate and thoughtful reconsiderations of an especially timely topic, Crossing B(l)ack recognizes and investigates assertions of a black-centered mixed-race identity that does not divorce a premodern racial identity from a postmodern racial fluidity.

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Tragic No More: Mixed Race Women and the Nexus of Sex and Celebrity

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2013-01-10 01:38Z by Steven

Tragic No More: Mixed Race Women and the Nexus of Sex and Celebrity

University of Massachusetts Press
December 2012
176 pages
6 x9; 6 illustrations
ISBN (paper): 978-1-55849-985-0
ISBN (cloth): 978-1-55849-984-3

Caroline A. Streeter, Associate Professor of English
University of California, Los Angeles

A timely exploration of gender and mixed race in American culture

This book examines popular representations of biracial women of black and white descent in the United States, focusing on novels, television, music, and film. Although the emphasis is on the 1990s, the historical arc of the study begins in the 1930s. Caroline A. Streeter explores the encounter between what she sees as two dominant narratives that frame the perception of mixed race in America. The first is based on the long-standing historical experience of white supremacy and black subjugation. The second is more recent and involves the post–Civil Rights expansion of interracial marriage and mixed race identities. Streeter analyzes the collision of these two narratives, the cultural anxieties they have triggered, and the role of black/white women in the simultaneous creation and undoing of racial categories—a charged, ambiguous cycle in American culture.

Streeter’s subjects include concert pianist Philippa Schuyler, Dorothy West’s novel The Wedding (in print and on screen), Danzy Senna’s novels Caucasia and Symptomatic, and celebrity performing artists Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Halle Berry. She opens with a chapter that examines the layered media response to Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Senator Strom Thurmond’s biracial daughter. Throughout the book, Streeter engages the work of feminist critics and others who have written on interracial sexuality and marriage, biracial identity, the multiracial movement, and mixed race in cultural studies.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s Secrets and Strom Thurmond’s Lies
  • 2. The Wedding’s Black/White Women in Prime Time
  • 3. Sex and Femininity in Danzy Senna’s Novels
  • 4. Faking the Funk? Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and the Politics of Passing
  • 5. From Tragedy to Triumph: Dorothy Dandridge, Halle Berry, and the Search for a Black Screen Goddess
  • 6. High (Mulatto) Hopes: The Rise and Fall of Philippa Schuyler
  • Afterword
  • Notes
  • Index
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Star-Light, Star-Bright, Star Damn Near White: Mixed-Race Superstars

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-10-28 00:57Z by Steven

Star-Light, Star-Bright, Star Damn Near White: Mixed-Race Superstars

The Journal of Popular Culture
Volume 40, Issue 2
(April 2007)
pages 217–237
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5931.2007.00376.x

Sika Alaine Dagbovie, Professor of English
Florida Atlantic University

In an episode of the “Chris Rock Show,” comedian Chris Rock searches the streets of Harlem to find out what people think of Tiger Woods. When he asks three Asian storekeepers if they consider Woods Asian, one replies, “‘Not even this much,” pressing two of his fingers together to show no space. This comic scene and the jokes chat surround Wood’s self-proclaimed identity reveal a cultural contradiction that I explore in this essay, namely the simultaneous acceptance and rejection of blackness within a biracial discourse in American popular culture. Though Wood’s self-identification may not fit neatly into the black/white mixed-race identity explored in this project, he still falls into a black/white dichotomy prevalent in the United States. The Asian storekeepers agree with Rock’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Tiger Woods is as black as James Brown, opposing sentiments like “The dude’s more Asian than he is anything else” on an Asian-American college Internet magazine (“Wang and Woods”). Woods cannot escape blackness (a stereotypical fried-chicken-and-collard-green-eating blackness according to Fuzzy Zoeller), and yet he also represents a multicultural posterboy, one whose blackness pales next to his much-celebrated multi-otherness.

Through advertising, interviews, and publicity, biracial celebrities encode a distinct connection to blackness despite their projected (and sometimes preferred) self-identification. Drawing from Richard Dyer’s Stars I read biracial celebrities Halle Berry, Vin Diesel, and Mariah Carey by analyzing autobiographical representations, celebrity statuses, public reception, and the publicity surrounding each of the…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Being Multiracial in a Country that Sees Black and White

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-01-05 00:13Z by Steven

Being Multiracial in a Country that Sees Black and White

Interpolations: A Journal of First Year Writing
Deparment of English, University of Maryland
Fall 2009

Lavisha McClarin
University of Maryland

In America mixed race individuals are becoming more prominent in the media, politics and sports throughout the country. Some of the most popular mixed race individuals that we see everyday include Tiger Woods, Vin Diesel, Mariah Carey, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Derek Jeter, Halle Berry, Alicia Keys and of course President [Barack] Obama. The fact that this population of mixed race individuals is growing at an astounding rate is the reason behind the current discussion on the racial classification of such individuals. Before the 1960s many researchers considered “biracial identity [to be] equivalent to black identity…or a subset of blacks” (Rockquemore 21). This thought continued to exist in the United States by researchers until the 1990s [sic] when “biracial people were [considered] a separate [racial] group” (21). The multiracial movement that has arisen during the 1990s believes that “every person, especially every child, who is multi-ethnic/interracial has the same right as any other person to assert an identity that embraces the fullness and integrity of their actual ancestry” (Tessman 1). Although there are overall positive effects for these individuals from the movement, there are also negative affects that could potentially cause more problems for America’s current racial system. However, despite the negative effects of the movement, there is evidence that shows that this potential transition to a multiracial system in the US has beneficial aspects to it…

Read the entire article here.

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Amalgamation and Hypodescent: The Question of Ethnoracial Mixture in the History of the United States

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2009-09-20 01:30Z by Steven

Amalgamation and Hypodescent: The Question of Ethnoracial Mixture in the History of the United States

The American Historical Review
Volume 108, Number 5 (December 2003)
pages 1363-1390

David A. Hollinger, Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History
University of California at Berkeley

In the middle of a July night in 1958, a couple living in a small town in Virginia were awakened when a party of local police officers walked into their bedroom and arrested them for a felony violation of Virginia’s miscegenation statute. The couple had been married in the District of Columbia, which did allow blacks and whites to marry each other, but the two Virginians were subsequently found guilty of violating the statute’s prohibition on marrying out of state with the intent of circumventing Virginia law.

That same summer, Hannah Arendt, the distinguished political theorist, an émigré from Hitler’s Germany then living in New York City, was writing an essay on school integration. That issue had been brought to flashpoint the previous year in Little Rock, Arkansas, by President Eisenhower’s use of federal troops to enforce the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that public schools were no longer to be racially segregated. But Arendt used her essay on school integration, which had been commissioned by the editors of Commentary, to talk also about miscegenation laws. Arendt seems not to have known of what was happening in Virginia that summer to Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple whose last name was such a fitting emblem for a relationship that was being denied the sanction of law. But Arendt insisted that, whatever the injustice entailed by the segregation of public schools, a deeper injustice by far was any restriction on an individual’s choice of a spouse. The laws that make “mixed marriage a criminal offense,” Arendt declared, were “the most outrageous” of the racist regulations then in effect in the American South.

The stunned editors of Commentary balked. An aghast Sidney Hook, to whom the editors showed a copy, rushed into print in another magazine to complain that Arendt was making “equality in the bedroom” seem more important than “equality in education.”  Arendt’s essay daring to suggest that the civil rights movement had gotten its priorities wrong later appeared in yet another magazine, the more radical Dissent, but only as prefaced by a strong editorial disclaimer and then followed by two rebuttals, one of which actually defended legal restrictions on interracial marriage.  A well-meaning European refugee, said by friends to be hopelessly naïve about the United States, had raised publicly the very last topic that advocates of civil rights for black Americans wanted to discuss in the 1950s: the question of ethnoracial mixture.

To what extent are the borders between communities of descent to be maintained and why? The question is an old one of species-wide relevance, more demanding of critical study than ever at the start of the twenty-first century as more nations are diversified by migration, and as the inhibitions of the 1950s recede farther into the past. The history of this question in the United States invites special scrutiny because this country is one of the most conspicuously multi-descent nations in the industrialized North Atlantic West.  The United States has served as a major site for engagement with the question, both behaviorally and discursively.  Americans have mixed in certain ways and not others, and they have talked about it in certain ways and not others.

From 1958, I will look both backward and forward, drawing on recent scholarship to observe what the history of the United States looks like when viewed through the lens of our question. Certain truths come into sharper focus when viewed through this lens, and whatever instruction the case of the United States may afford to a world facing the prospect of increased mixture comes more fully into view…

…But we must distinguish between the empirically warranted narrative of amalgamation, punctuated as it is by hypodescent racialization, and the extravagance of the amalgamation fantasy.  The latter is increasingly common in the public culture of the United States today. We see it in journalistic accounts not only of the lives of Tiger Woods, Mariah Carey, and other mixed-descent celebrities but also of the cross-color marriages by leading politicians.  Some commentators predict that ethnoracial distinctions in the United States will disappear in the twenty-first century.  Perhaps they are right, but there is ample cause to doubt it. And a glance at the history of Brazil, where physical mixing even of blacks and whites has magnificently failed to achieve social justice and to eliminate a color hierarchy, should chasten those who expect too much from mixture alone. Moreover, inequalities by descent group are not the only kind of inequalities. In an epoch of diminished economic opportunities and of apparent hardening of class lines, the diminution of racism may leave many members of historically disadvantaged ethnoracial groups in deeply unequal relation to whites simply by virtue of class position.  Even the end of racism at this point in history would not necessarily ensure a society of equals…

Read the entire article here.

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