most likely to suffer

I knew this, like on the inside of me, however reading it was profoundly gratifying.  Of course we are most likely to suffer…from many things.  You see, we’re not just invisible in the realm of public services and policy, but one could argue that we’re invisible everywhere we go.  Even at home to a certain extent.  Depending on circumstances of course.  And not only can we be misunderstood by teachers and health care professionals, we may very well be misunderstood by our parent(s), friends, and extended family.  Seeing as the truth of our experience has been ignored and denied, we’re also invisible in history.  Seeing yourself reflected back to you in a way that is congruent with your self-image is a “luxury” we are not often afforded.  And though there is no written rule on the subject, the feeling that our story is not valid and our voice is not wanted unless we surrender to societal expectations is palpable.

How about everybody just let us be and take us for who we say and show that we are?  Which means acknowledging, listening, hearing and imagining into some level of empathy.  Doesn’t seem like many people are interested in doing that.  Perhaps because if they did, the entire illusion would crumble.  Lots of identities are tightly wound in that illusion. So, then who would you all be?  You’d be like me.  Untethered from out-dated classifications and free to be whoever your heart tells you you are.  My heart has never mentioned race to me.  Has yours (to you)?

Mixed-race children ‘are being failed’ in treatment of mental health problems

The fastest growing ethnic group in Britain is still being treated as if it is only integrated into black culture, says report

mixie fairy b:w

Children of mixed race are at greater risk of suffering from mental health problems and are not getting the support they need, says a report.

Despite mixed-race children belonging to the fastest-growing ethnic group, the research, backed by the National Children’s Bureau, found that they faced “unrealistic” expectations from teachers and other adults who did not understand their backgrounds.

While mixed-race young people are over represented in the care, youth justice and child protection systems, the authors said they were “invisible” in public service practice and policy.

The report – Mixed Experiences – growing up mixed race: mental health and wellbeing – drew on several studies and interviews with 21 people about their experiences as children.

Co-author Dinah Morley was concerned at the lack of understanding over what it meant to be mixed race, a group most likely to suffer racism. “I was surprised at how much racism, from black and white people, had come their way,” she said. “A lot of children were seen as black when they might be being raised by a white single parent and had no understanding of the black culture. The default position for a child of mixed race is that they are black.”

The report found that those with mixed-race backgrounds were more at risk of mental health issues because of their struggle to develop an identity. Morley said the strongest common experience was the “too white to be black, too black to be white”.

The 2011 census showed that the mixed-race population was the fastest growing ethnic group in Britain, amounting to 2.2% of the population of England and Wales.

In 2012, research by the thinktank British Future found that prejudice towards mixed-race relationships was fading. The report, The Melting Pot Generation – How Britain Became More Relaxed About Race, talked about the “Jessica Ennis generation”, crediting the London Olympics 2012 athlete with changing attitudes towards mixed race. “That positive role model is also seen as something very important,” said Morley.

Jessica Ennis is a positive role model for people of mixed race

Jessica Ennis is a positive role model for people of mixed race Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Image

what did i just do?

This right here…this is everything.  And right on time because I need a little hope right now.

102 year old Rosa Finnegan checked herself.  And though what she discovered left her feeling ashamed, she shared it anyway.  Nationally.  Nothing braver than that.  The self examination and the sharing alike.  And while I admire her and have teared up each time I’ve read the story, I can’t help but think “Damn, it took 100 years for her to ask herself ‘What did I just do?'” I am so not judging Rosa here.  I think she’s a hero. Not exaggerating.  I also understand that the racial climate into which Rosa was born in 1912 was much more “extreme” for lack of a better word.  Perhaps Rosa had much more racial bullshit to sort through than those of us born half a century or more later. So what’s our excuse?

I gotta say here, too, that Rosa isn’t a hero to me only because she was willing to explore her racial prejudice, but because she was willing to explore an aspect of herself that most of us would catalog as “bad” and then scramble to cover up, deny, suppress, ignore, or whatever.  So many avenues to attempt this kind of escape!  But the only way to freedom from this age old entanglement is through the honest investigation, the acceptance of what is found, and the willingness to shift to more holistic perspectives and behavior.  Without judgement, shame, or attachment.  Sound easy?  It is and it isn’t.  What do you do when you notice that someone isn’t white like you, black like you, mixed like you, straight like you, gay like you, rich like you, poor like you? How are your actions dictated by these observations? And are those really the things that define a you?  That define any of us?  I think not, but we sure do spend a lot of time identifying ourselves and each other by such measures.

At 102, Reflections On Race And The End Of Life

Rosa Finnegan celebrated her 102nd birthday on Wednesday. She was born in 1912 — the year the Titanic sank. She stopped working at 101 and now lives in a nursing home in Massachusetts. Time has gone by fast, she says.

Below are excerpts from Rosa’s interview, reported and produced by Ari Daniel and Caitrin Lynch.

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‘Not One Bit Different From Me’

Let me tell you something that happened to me here two months ago. It’s going to be a little hard to talk about this because I’m ashamed of myself, in plain English.

One day, they came and asked me if I’d like to move to another room. And when I was taken to the other room, I saw Ada, a black lady sitting there in her wheelchair with her oxygen tank beside her. And we had a nice little chat and I left. But first thing I noticed was that she wasn’t white, like I am, which is the thing that stopped me from moving into the room with her.

And when I got back to my own room, I sat there and I said, what did I just do? Rosa, you’re not a nice person at all. I felt very bad about that, so every time I went by her room, I would go in and sit and talk with her. And I met all her family. There was always someone there from the family to be with her. If she had some cookies or candy or something, she’d always say, here, have some of this. I felt kind of warm every time I went in to talk to her. And we got to be friends.

When it comes right down to it, she is not one bit different from me. She believes in the same God I do. She has children, grandchildren. And one day, one of the aides came to me and said, Rosa, do you want to go in and talk with Ada, she’s very sick and I don’t think she’s going to make it. Well, I went in and I did the best I could. She was sort of semiconscious and I leaned over and said, hi, Ada, how are you doing? And I didn’t get any answer. And her son was sitting there. And I said, if she should come to a little bit, please tell her that I was here and that I’m thinking about her. He said, thank you, I will. That night, she passed away. I haven’t got over it yet.

Even as old as I am, you think you’re not prejudiced but all of a sudden, you really find out you are. How stupid I was. Because before you know it, it’s all over. Thank God, I had a chance to really get to know this wonderful woman.

The reporting of this story was supported by the Olin College Faculty Summer Research Fund.

heart energy burst

drunk history or re: mary ellen pleasant

Apparently three years have flown by since I first learned of and blogged about Mary Ellen Pleasant.  Whoa.

Anyway, I was truly delighted to come across this Drunk History segment on a Sunday afternoon #sharing.  I love that some funny creative knew of the story and decided to give it life as an inebriated tale.  The piece is actually longer, but this is all I could find on youtube.  If you have Comedy Central and On Demand you can find the entire tale in the “San Francisco” episode.  Highly recommended.

“Where was I at historic-al-ly?”

😂

i am who i am that is that

It’s been a good long while since someone has asked me outright, “What are you?”  This dawned on me as I read the article below.  At first I figured it’s just because I’m not that ethnically ambiguous, visually speaking.  I have never thought of myself that way, though, and regardless of my self-perception I have been What are you-ed many times.  When I got to the point in the article about nationality vs. ethnicity my confusion was cleared up.  I have this conversation on a weekly basis.  Unless I literally do not engage with any “new” people.  It goes like this:

  • new person:  So, where are you from?
  • me:  Michigan.
  • new person: (usually awkward giggle goes here) I mean what’s your nationality?
  • me:  American.
  • new person: (usually frustrated sigh goes here) Okaaaayyyy, well where are your parents from?
  • me:  Kentucky and West Virginia.
  • new person: either a) gives up or b) says, Well, what’s their background?

I usually give in here saying something like, “My mom is black and my dad is white, if that’s what you’re trying to get at.” Believe me my smart ass retorts could go on forever, but who has time for this kind of bullshit conversation?  It’s true: I am not a puzzle to solve. In the past I have allowed these questions to make me feel less than the whole being that I am.  Now, they irk me. Please don’t confuse my discontent with the content of these chats with me preferring that there be no discussion.  As I said in the last post, we have to talk about it.  But with the intent to understand and connect, not to separate, stereotype or pigeonhole.  The difference is palpable.  I can feel the intent behind the inquisitions and the stares.  I no longer take it personally either way, but the pigeonholers lead me to a place of righteous indignation inside of myself that is not an optimal space from which to raise the vibration of love on the planet. So help a sister out here.  Ask yourself why it is that you want to know so badly?  Why, why, why, why, why?  I beg you to get real with yourself on that one.  I believe this will lead you to questions that are actually worth asking.  And if you’re brave enough to truthfully answer them, those answers may begin to remove the blinders that keep us immersed in the illusions of society.  The “right” questions and the honest answers will lead you out of the false self into your truth, the truth of the universe.  I’m all for asking questions.  But quality questions, people.  Progressive questions.  Unifying questions.  Not bullshit ones. And if you really must ask because you couldn’t possibly go on living without knowing which box somebody “belongs” in, please follow the advice in this article.  Especially that thing about accept the answer you receive.  Sat Nam.

i am who i am

I’m Not a Puzzle to Solve: How to Speak to Ethnically Ambiguous People

September 9, 2013 | by Kat Lazo My father is Peruvian, and my mother is Colombian, which I guess makes me ethnically ambiguous. I say “I guess” because in my eyes, this seems to be a pretty boring combination. Yet, to many people, I seem to be a hard puzzle to solve. But unfortunately for them, I’m not a puzzle. I’m a human being. And that’s the problem when approaching ethnically (or racially) ambiguous people with questions about their backgrounds: Many of the approaches are dehumanizing. I’ve had complete strangers act nice to me only to find out they were trying to win a bet as to guessing what ethnicity I was. I’ve had people stop in their tracks and shout “What are you?” as if I were an alien. I’ve had men refer to me as an “exotic animal.” I’ve had people question how American I am. All of which made me feel less than the whole being that I am. I understand where the questions come from. I have almond-shaped eyes, light olive skin, Inca facial features, and straight black hair, a combination that is curious to some people. I understand how my appearance can be foreign and interesting to many people. But that doesn’t mean that my appearance is up for public discussion. Questioning someone about his or her appearance is rude, especially if you haven’t established a relationship with that individual to begin with. But if can’t control your curiosity and you really want to know that badly, here are a few things to keep in mind when approaching people about their ethnic background.

It’s How You Ask

Stopping a complete stranger on the street to interrogate them –whether it’s about the tattoos on their body or their ethnic background – isn’t always the best approach. Why? Because you’re a stranger. People don’t owe anyone an explanation for why they look the way they look,especially someone that they don’t know. That being said, if you still feel the need to ask, don’t bombard us with a thousand questions. It’s overwhelming and insensitive. There’s also something offensive about thinking that you are entitled to ask so many questions. It’s bothersome precisely because you’re not entitled to it. Please stop asking “What are you?” It’s not the right way to ask about someone’s ethnicity, and it’s rude. Though it may be a result of ignorance as to how to ask, it makes the other person feel like an object or less than whole. It’s as if you are insinuating that we are something less than human. i don't feel like a personThe best way to ask is to be genuinely interested in getting to know a person and not just a slice of information about them. If you have a genuine conversation, it’s even possible that the person will disclose information about their ethnicity before you even ask. And if they don’t – or if they decline to answer your questions – remember thatthat’s okay. They have every right not to divulge that information.

Accept the Answer That You Receive

If you’re going to be so bold as to interrupt someone to ask such a complicated question, than be prepared for a complicated answer. Not everyone’s response is going to be as simple as you may have assumed. Remember that ethnicity is complicated in itself. It’s pretty rare that anyone in the Western hemisphere is 100% anything these days. And once you get an answer, please don’t continue pushing for more information if the response didn’t suffice your curiosity. Continuing to question someone after they’ve given you an answer is disrespectful. The answer belongs to them and them alone. The answer is not validated on whether or not it pleases you. Also keep in mind that for some individuals, perhaps those that don’t know their biological parents, ethnic background may be something deeply personal for them. In my case, I’m a mestizo (a person of both indigenous and European descent). So my dearest apologizes that when I disclose my parents’ nationalities, it does not necessarily appease your curiosity as to from where my almond-shaped eyes derive. But deal with it. Once answered, don’t keep pushing.

Expectations

If you’re going to ask such a personal question, leave your biases and stereotypes at the door. Stereotypes are bad, even the positive ones. Making generalization about an entire group of people is problematic because it limits them to exactly that – a generalization. A stereotype not only limits an individual’s personal growth, but it limits you from genuinely getting to know them. If you want to really get to know someone, leave the stereotypes at the door. “I’m Mexican.” “Oh, wow. I thought Mexicans were all really short.” Or… “I’m Filipina.” “You’re a lot prettier than most Filipinas.” These types of remarks are rude. The people being questioned have opened themselves up to answer your question, and you respond by insulting the very people he or she is associated with? How could that be construed as not offensive?

Case-By-Case Basis

No two people are the same, and therefore, no two people will respond in the same manner. Some will welcome questions and curiosity, whereas others may not. Personally, I find that I respond to people differently depending on how they approach me and depending on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I’ll play dumb. “What am I? Oh, I’m a human.” Sometimes I’ll take the opportunity as a way to teach others about my background. “I’m not exactly sure where my eyes come from because my mother has naturally almond eyes and my father’s country, Peru, has had a history of an influx of Japanese immigrants.” Or sometimes I won’t answer back because—well—I just don’t feel like it. And that’s okay. It’s my body, and I have the right to answer in any manner that I feel comfortable with – not necessarily an answer that makes you comfortable. And one of my choices is not answering at all. Remember: No matter how someone answers the question, it’s always appropriate.

Learn the Difference Between Nationality and Ethnicity

Other than “What are you?” the most commonly asked and irritating question I get is “What nationality are you?” To which, I give the proper answer: American. One’s nationality is the nation in which a person was born or is a citizen of. Another way to think of it is: It’s what’s on your passport. Ethnicity, on the other hand, isn’t as easily defined, but for the most part, it’s determined by a couple of factors, including country of origin, shared language, and ancestry. Hispanic, for example, is an ethnicity, not a race. One can be a Black Hispanic, White Hispanic, or Asian Hispanic. Ethnicity may be a little complicated, but one thing we know is this: It’s not the same as nationality. Precision of language matters. i am not-rumi I don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why I look the way I look. And it’s my choice whether or not to disclose – and not yours to force it out of me. Understand that if you are curious about a person’s ethnic background, chances are that you aren’t the only one. There have likely been plenty before you who have asked the same questions. Having to answer the same questions over and over again can get tiresome – for anyone. And having so many people question your appearance can make one feel less-than. So ask yourself why you care so much. Revaluate how important it is to attain this information rather than caring about the person themselves. The truth is, it shouldn’t matter. Because just knowing someone’s background won’t tell you who they are. But a genuine interest might.

now…

cheerios meme

Certainly you’ve heard of this, right?  The barrage of hateful comments left under the commercial featuring a mixed race family on Cheerios’ YouTube channel.  Comments so offensive that General Mills deleted and disabled them.  “It’s 2013!!!” is the gist of the typical response from “normal” people on the internet.  “I want to eat so many Cheerios right now,” was quite literally my response.  And I got a little choked up.  Not about the comment fiasco.  I stopped getting choked up about youtube comments years ago, thank God, and it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that hateful voices rose from the trollers. None.  So all I’m left with is this beautiful commercial, with this adorable child who makes some sincerely delightful faces depicted in a family that almost resembles mine in a way that I cannot recall having seen before.  Ever.  I am 36 years old.  I was in commercials as a kid.  I have never seen a commercial like this.  That is what is shocking.  That in 2013, this near-revolutionary advertising.  People took note, did double takes.  Heads were scratched.  Fears and tempers were flared.  Clearly this is long overdue.  So, thank you Cheerios!! Thank you for looking at your community and your consumers and seeing what is actually in front of you. And being “bold” enough to “endorse” it.  By endorsing reality, you make us face it and give us the opportunity to adjust to it.  Maybe even to like it You reflect me and all the others like me who had never experienced the normalization of our lives in a television commercial. This makes for a healthier society.  That makes for a healthier me.

And then there’s this! Maybe it’s not as bad as it seems after all.

Turns Out Americans Love ‘Controversial’ Cheerios Ad

Perhaps Racist YouTubers Not Representative of Country as a Whole

By: 
June 5, 2013

Last week, a new ad from Cheerios was deemed controversial when media outlets discovered that the racist contingent of the idiocracy known as the YouTube comment section trashed the ad for featuring a mixed-race couple and a biracial child.

But according to data from Ace Metrix, Americans like the ad. In fact, “Good for Your Heart” (called “Just Checking” on YouTube) tested the highest of six new Cheerios ads this year and garnered attention and likeability scores 9% and 11% “above the current 90-day norm for cereals.”

General Mills rightly decided not to be swayed by the rantings of deranged internet comments, telling USA Today that the supposed uproar would not affect future casting decisions.

According to Ace Metrix, the ad — created by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York — “appealed to all age/gender demographics with the exception of males over 50.” While that could be taken as a statement on racial attitudes, Ace Metrix noted that ads with babies tend to perform poorly with this demographic regardless of the race of the child.

The report, which surveyed over 500 consumers, went on to note: “The ad scored best with African-Americans, who collectively scored the ad a 721, followed by Asian Americans and Hispanics. While African Americans and Hispanics generally award advertising higher scores than their ethnic counterparts — the 721 score is 100 higher than average for African-Americans.”

And filtering verbatim commentary from those surveyed, those who specifically mentioned “couple” did so in a positive manner.

“I liked that the couple is mixed race,” wrote one respondent. “Good to see that on TV, but in a subtle manner.”

WordCloudCheerios

word cloud from Ace Metrix survey comments

confessions

1) This one’s a confession of sorts because since the Adam Lambert debacle I have not really watched any reality contestant type t.v.  And by “really” I mean never seen a full episode.  One can’t avoid bits and pieces.  Therefore, I am surprised to find myself sitting here on pins and needles so hopeful that Zendaya will win Dancing with the Stars.  The first time I watched an episode of DWTS was last night.  It happened because my mom told me about this biracial girl Zendaya who is just fantastic and a judge favorite, but may need extra votes because her parents were shown on camera and that could cost her the support of… well… “certain” viewers.  The only sad thing about that statement is that the concern is not invalid.  So I turned the show on and lo and behold… I think that if I had more time in my life I would become slightly obsessed with this girl because I just think she is spectacular and her parents are so adoring and even if it cost her votes I’m so glad that that reality is being televised!  In such a mainstream way.  So awesome! Makes me happy and brings me peace!  I kinda want to be her when I was 16.

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Zendaya-Coleman-Mother

zendaya_coleman_zendaya_and_val_dwts_season_16_cast_first_look_WoVb4RGt.sized

2) As in second confession…. In addition to Mental Health Awareness Month, May is also National Hamburger month.  Apparently I’m not one to discriminate because in the last 2 weeks I have had 3 cheeseburgers.  That’s 1/4 of my yearly burger intake!  In the last 2 weeks!  Clearly I am celebrating National Burger Month as well as MHAM and just thought you should be aware.  If burgers were alive they would probably be depressed because there is really no hope for a burger.  It will be eaten.  That would be beyond sad.

nation burger month may

SadBurger

race manners

Since I’ve been back on the blog, I have said very little about the so-called biracial experience.  It amazes me that it’s still easier, even for me with all of my good “mixed” intentions, to talk about black and white.  I forgive myself for this because without the black and white there is no mixed.  Without the baggage of white vs. black stuff, there is no need for the mixed discussion.  So, I suppose it’s only natural.  It is little disappointing personally that the middle ground isn’t where the conversation begins for me.  It’s on the ends of the spectrum.  But I also suppose that this is natural.  I suppose this has been the disappointment of my life.  And I suppose that this is how we get to the middle ground.  By exploring the ends and inching toward the middle.

A couple of things in Jenee Harris’ article jumped out at me:

1. “My white mother has developed an acute sensitivity to the subtle ways prejudice and bigotry pop up in daily life.”- 

I wonder if my father would say he has developed the same.  I think so…I think that happened when he entered into a relationship with my (black) mother and grew deeper as he witnessed my experience… but we never talk about it…

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me with my parents:)

2. “Well-intended”- re: “adults loved to tell me that people paid “good money” for hair like mine (think 1980s-era perms on white women)” and “A friend got the biscuit analogy…: God burned black people and undercooked white people, but removed her from the heavenly oven at the perfect moment.”

Well…if the intention of the (white) person who said this is to make the biracial person feel better about the perceived plight of their kind…well…i guess one could count that as a good or harmless intention. But I think that summation signifies complacence.  I, however, have to challenge this notion.  You see, giver of said “compliment,” in your quest to make me feel better about being my invisible, displaced, misunderstood, marginalized and tragic self you put me on the receiving end of your pity, your assumptions and judgements.  I do believe this is usually unconscious.  I also must acknowledge that it is an assumption I’m making. Yet there’s a reason that I assume that this is the intention behind the compliments.  The assumption is based on experience, but even those are dangerous to make. It’s the tone with which these comments are usually, subtly uttered.  If you’ve been the biracial person in this kind of conversation, I think you know what I mean.

When I engage in this kind of innocent interaction I can be left feeling frustrated, upset, and worst of all unseen.  It is depressing.  It is literally a depression of my spirit.  Of my freedom.  A depression of my freedom to just be and simply experience this life without being saddled with the weight of the stigma of a couple hundred years of prejudice, condemnation, fear, greed, inferiority, superiority, discrimination, and antagonism.  My take on it is that some people assuage a fleeting feeling of guilt over the fact that this is the biracial’s lot in life by reminding us (and/or reminding themselves) that I should be happy because I have good hair and tan skin which, I infer from your comments, should make up for the fact that on the whole the society we live in cannot acknowledge or understand how I exist.  I thought there was more to that sentence, but I think that’s it.  Our nation’s identity continues to be wrapped up in race and all the baggage that comes with it.  For that to remain intact, biracial just can’t really be.  I don’t think that needs to remain intact.  I think things are shifting.  So slowly.  But they are shifting and I hope I stay awake enough to the shift to feel when my assumptions based on past experience are truly no longer valid.

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that most of my response falls into the category of  “Oh, come on, stop being so sensitive.

Or am I just being truthful?  That’s the stuff that this brought up for me.

Biracial Children: Racism Advice for White Parents

Race Manners: Comments about the superior beauty of your biracial child aren’t just weird — they’re troubling.

By Jenée Desmond-Harris

Updated Monday April 8, 2013

The Root –

“I’m a Caucasian woman with a biracial child (her father is black). I live in a predominantly white community. Why is it that whenever people discover that I have a ‘mixed’ child, they always say things like, ‘Oh, he/she must be so cute/gorgeous/adorable, those kids are always the best looking. You are so lucky.’ 

I know they mean well, but it seems off to me, and maybe racist. Do they mean compared to ‘real’ black children? When a German and Italian or an Asian and Jewish person have a child, black people don’t say, ‘Mixed children like yours are always the best looking.’ (Plus, it’s not true — not all black-white biracial kids are the ‘best looking.’)

Am I being overly sensitive by feeling there’s something off about these comments? If not, what’s the best way to respond?”

I chose this question for the first installment of Race Manners, The Root‘s new advice column on racial etiquette and ethics, because it hits close to home. Like your daughter, I’m biracial. Like you, my white mother has developed an acute sensitivity to the subtle ways prejudice and bigotry pop up in daily life. I should know. She calls me to file what I’ve deemed her “racism reports.”

And let’s be clear. Americans of all races say bizarre things to and about mixed people, who can inspire some of the most revealing remarks about our black-white baggage. Just think of the public debates about how MSNBC’s Karen Finney, and even President Obama, should be allowed to identify.

But the comments in your question often come from a good place, and they’re often said with a smile. When I was a child, adults loved to tell me that people paid “good money” for hair like mine (think 1980s-era perms on white women) and for tanning beds (again, it was the ’80s and ’90s) to achieve my skin color. Thus, the grown-up argument went, I should be happy (even if these trends didn’t stop people from petting my curls as if I were an exotic poodle, nor did they give me the straight blond hair I envied, and it’s not as if I was on the receiving end of the beauty-shop payments).

A friend got the biscuit analogy. Wait for it: God burned black people and undercooked white people, but removed her from the heavenly oven at the perfect moment, she was told.

Awkward. Well-intended. Poorly thought-through. A window into our shared cultural stuff about identity. These statements are all these things at once.

That’s another reason I selected your question. When it comes to remarks that are so obviously dead-wrong to some of us, and so clearly innocuous to others, there’s often little energy for or interest in breaking down the explanation that lies between “Ugh, so ignorant!” and “Oh, come on, stop being so sensitive.”

I’ll try it out here.

You’re right to be bothered by the remarks from the Biracial Babies Fan Club. Here’s why: These people aren’t pulling an arbitrary appreciation for almond-colored skin and curls from the ether. Instead — even if they are not aware of this — they’re both reflecting and perpetuating troubling beliefs that are bigger than their individual tastes. Specifically, while “mixed kids are the cutest” is evenhanded on its face, treating both black and white (and all other ethnic groups) as inferior to your daughter, I hear it as anti-black.

As Marcia Dawkins, the author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, told me, “The myth that mixed-race offspring are somehow better than nonmixed offspring is an example of ‘hybrid vigor,’ an evolutionary theory which states that the progeny of diverse varieties within a species tend to exhibit better physical and psychological characteristics than either one or both of the parents.”

mixie girl

And just take a wild guess how this idea has popped up for black people. You got it: In order to demean and oppress African Americans, thought leaders throughout history, including the likes of Thomas Jefferson, have said that black-white mixed offspring are better, more attractive, smarter, etc., than “real” blacks and not as good or attractive or smart as “real” whites, Dawkins explains.

So alleging that mixed kids are the best of anything sounds different when you consider that we’ve long put a wholesale premium on all that’s whiter and brighter.

Nowhere is that premium more stubbornly applied today than when it comes to the topic at the center of your question — beauty and attractiveness. In recent memory, we had to re-litigate the harms of colorism when Zoe Saldana was cast to play the lead in a Nina Simone biopic. Tamar Braxton and India.Arie have both been accused of bleaching skin — as if that would be a reasonable thing to do.

A writer lamented in a personal essay for xoJane that she was sick and tired of being complimented for what black men viewed as her “mixed” or “exotic” (read: nonblack) physical features. (As far as I know, “you look a little black” is not a common line of praise among other groups.) Black girls still pick the white dolls in recreated Kenneth Clark experiments. Harlem moms can’t get Barbie birthday decorations in the color of their little princesses. We treated rapper Kendrick Lamar like the department store that featured a wheelchair-bound model in an ad campaign when he cast a dark-skinned woman as a music-video love interest.

Against this backdrop of painful beliefs that people of all colors buy into, yes, “Mixed kids are the cutest” should sound “off.”

As the mom of a mixed kid, you signed up for more than just the task of venturing into the “ethnic” aisle of the drugstore and learning about leave-in conditioner. You took on the work of hearing things like this through the ears of your daughter, and you agreed to have a stake in addressing racism. The fact that these comments bothered you means you’re on the job.

So if it’s at all possible, you should explain everything I’ve said above to people who announce that your daughter is gorgeous based on racial pedigree alone. If you’re shorter on time or familiarity, you could try a reminder that there’s really no such thing as genetic purity in the first place (“Great news, if that’s true, since most of us — including you — are mixed”). As an alternative, the old cocked-head, confused look, combined with “What makes you say that?” always puts the onus back on the speaker to think about what he or she is really saying.

Finally, just a simple, “Thanks, I think she’s beautiful, but I don’t like the implication that it’s because of her ethnic makeup,” could open up an important introductory conversation about why comments about superior biracial beauty aren’t true and aren’t flattering, and why the beliefs they reflect aren’t at all “cute.”

before this hurts too much

Need race-related advice? Send your questions to racemanners@theroot.com.

The Root‘s staff writer, Jenée Desmond-Harris, covers the intersection of race with news, politics and culture. She wants to talk about the complicated ways in which ethnicity, color and identity arise in your personal life — and provide perspective on the ethics and etiquette surrounding race in a changing America.

peaceful changemakers

Basically, I think that Madeleine Rogin is a genius and I hope this curriculum (and others like it) spreads like wildfire.  To know that there are people working so diligently to affect positive change at a core and fundamental level is truly invigorating to me.  It makes me enthusiastic about life. That children are being thoughtfully led to consider social justice, peace, and change and to recognize, then interrupt bias…well, that opens up more space in my heart.  For real.

I only wish I had experienced first-hand the benefit of this kind of education.  As a student, I mean.  I am totally looking forward to experiencing the benefit of communing with citizens who are a product of this type of conscientious education.  But even more selfishly, I cannot help but feel a twinge of envy when contemplating the vast difference between how it felt to be a speck of color in a classroom where exclusivity was a priority (as were the classrooms of my youth), and how I imagine it feels to be in a millennial classroom where inclusivity is a priority.  It gives me hope that this is concrete evidence that we are indeed moving from a country where exclusivity is a priority to a country that takes more pride in inclusivity.  At high levels.  Where it counts.

So, on this 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, I contemplate:

What was the problem he faced?

Who was involved or affected?

Why was it hard to solve this problem?

And was it solved?

How to Teach Kids about Race and Social Justice: One Teacher’s Approach

By    via

Kindergarten

When it came time to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. to my Kindergarten students, I found myself struggling to communicate who he was. I wanted to convey the themes that stood out to me the most about Dr. King: courage, standing up for a community, and using peaceful means to bring about big, important social changes. But I didn’t know what was developmentally appropriate for five and six year olds. Should I tell them about his assassination?  Should I talk to them about race and racism? Would learning the truth about racism and segregation be too much for them to handle and create divisions in my diverse classroom? Would my students feel burdened or overwhelmed with this information?

For years, I tried to talk about Dr. King without talking about racism. I thought my students would understand the themes of courage, social justice and empathy by talking in general terms about Dr. King’s dream of an inclusive world. But our conversations in class did not convey these themes and my students did not seem to understand the significance of who Dr. King was and what he did. And, inevitably, some of the truth would come out—through a comment from a student who had prior knowledge about the story, or a conversation on the playground between a kindergartener and an older child. I realized that it was my responsibility to tell this story in a way that would effectively communicate the themes I most wanted my students to understand and, in order to do that, I would have to look deeper into our curriculum and face my own discomfort around talking about racism with my students.

I met with my kindergarten team and began an inquiry into our curriculum.  We asked ourselves:  how can we teach the themes of courage, justice, inclusivity and making change through peaceful means to our young students? And how can we do this in a way that is developmentally appropriate and includes all the voices in our classrooms?

The result of this inquiry has led to the “Peaceful Changemakers” curriculum in kindergarten, and, now, influencing the way that first through fourth grade teachers talk about issues of environmentalism, civil and human rights. Through this curriculum, students learn about many people who work toward making the world a better place through peaceful means.  We realized that in order for our students to have a deeper understanding of Dr. King we would need to integrate the ideas around making big, important changes into our curriculum. We would need to start talking about these themes months before Dr. King’s birthday, so that our students could practice exploring the ideas and having conversations about what it means to stand up for a community and make change before they learned about Dr. King.

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We start by studying Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax, and we call the Lorax a “changemaker” because he spoke for the trees. Students answer the following questions about the Lorax: What was the problem he faced? Who was involved or affected? Why was it hard to solve this problem? And was it solved? From there, we learn about Dr. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan scientist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for planting trees in Kenya. As we learn about these changemakers, students take action to solve problems in their local community.  We work to restore the watershed by planting native trees at a nearby creek and go on trash walks through the local parks. We hang signs around their school educating our school community about how trash on the ground eventually makes its way into the ocean.

Students also honor changemakers from their own families and communities, and family members come into the classroom to present their changemakers. Some of these changemakers are tutors in schools, work in orphanages in other countries, educate others about the importance of reusing and recycling, or turn parking lots into neighborhood parks.

There were also important changes we made to the discussion of Dr. King himself. Through our research, we discovered that it is developmentally appropriate to skip the part of the story around Dr. King’s death; students do not need to know that he was assassinated in order to appreciate his work. I had noticed that when my students learned he was killed, they would often focus on this violent image more than on any other aspect of his life work. And, without the larger unit in which we explore many people who work for change, students would feel burdened and overwhelmed with this information. Now, if my students learn about the assassination from an older sibling or from an outside conversation, I can point to our Changemaker Wall on which we display all the changemakers we have learned about, both famous and not, and remind them that there are so many people working, as Dr. King did, to make a difference.

We also learned it was important not to skip the part about racism and segregation. Using our changemakers framework, where we ask specific questions of each of our changemakers, our students need to know what the problem was in order to think about how to solve it. There is a universality among all the changemakers in that they all work to make a difference and solve big problems, but in order for our students to grasp the significance of this universality they also have to understand the specific problems. Otherwise, they cannot appreciate the courage it takes to solve the problems we face.

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We also discovered that our students needed support in developing a basic understanding of skin color differences and language they can use to be inclusive with one another. To this end, students mix paint to find their skin tones, write poems about their skin, and listen to many stories about the different shades of our skin. Talking openly about race and racism with our students is also important so that they can recognize and interrupt bias when they see it. They can also more fully appreciate the work of Dr. King and other changemakers in fighting against segregation and racism.

Now, when it comes time to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. in kindergarten, the students are able to focus on the big ideas around courage, social justice and making peaceful change. They have a deeper understanding of their similarities and differences and a greater appreciation for the importance of standing up for a community and working toward inclusivity and equality.   They recognize they can be changemakers too.

responsible?

So, I’m sitting here completely stunned by this and unsure how to process it.  It’s not the “possibility” that the government was involved in the assassination that has me floored, but that I have never heard of this trial before.  I wasn’t sure I could believe that the trial even happened.  I came across this on April Fool’s Day after all.  But it seems to be no joke.  The King Center seems to be legit.  The NYTimes made some brief mention of the trial.  However this is not common knowledge.  At least, not to the best of my knowledge.  I can only say that I am truly befuddled.  Yep, befuddled.  The 45th anniversary of the assassination is days away: 6:01 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, 1968.

mlk assassination suit

Assassination Conspiracy Trial

Martin King’s family: share civil trial case that US govt assassinated Martin

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Coretta Scott King: “We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience.” – King Family Press Conference, Dec. 9, 1999.

From the King Center on the  family’s civil trial that found the US government guilty in Martin’s assassination:

After four weeks of testimony and over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on December 8, 1999 after about an hour of deliberations that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. In a press statement held the following day in Atlanta, Mrs. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict, saying , “There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame. I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law… My husband once said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To-day, almost 32 years after my husband and the father of my four children was assassinated, I feel that the jury’s verdict clearly affirms this principle. With this faith, we can begin the 21st century and the new millennium with a new spirit of hope and healing.”

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TRANSCRIPTS

View Full Trial Transcript>

View Transcript of King Family Press Conference on the Verdict>

KING FAMILY STATEMENT ON MEDIA REQUESTS REGARDING THE MEMPHIS VERDICT

The King family stands firmly behind the civil trial verdict reached by twelve jurors in the Memphis, Tennessee courtroom on December 8, 1999.

An excerpt from remarks made by Mr. Dexter Scott King, Chairman, President, and CEO of The King Center, during the December 9, 1999 press conference regarding the verdict that may be used in support of this family decision:

“We can say that because of the evidence and information obtained in Memphis we believe that this case is over. This is a period in the chapter. We constantly hear reports, which trouble me, that this verdict creates more questions than answers. That is totally false. Anyone who sat in on almost four weeks of testimony, with over seventy witnesses, credible witnesses I might add, from several judges to other very credible witnesses, would know that the truth is here.”

The question now is, “What will you do with that?” We as a family have done our part. We have carried this mantle for as long as we can carry it. We know what happened. It is on public record. The transcripts will be available; we will make them available on the Web at some point. Any serious researcher who wants to know what happened can find out.”

The King family feels that the jury’s verdict, the transcripts of the conspiracy trial, and the transcripts of the King family’s press conference following the trial — all of which can be found on The King Center’s website — include everything that that family members have to say about the assassination.

Therefore, the King family shares the conviction that there is nothing more to add to their comments on record and will respectfully decline all further requests for comment.

destined to repeat history

Memphis Jury Sees Conspiracy in Martin Luther King’s Killing

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By EMILY YELLIN
Published: December 09, 1999

A jury in a civil suit brought by the family of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. decided today that a retired Memphis cafe owner was part of a conspiracy in the 1968 killing of Dr. King.

The jury’s decision means it did not believe that James Earl Ray, who was convicted of the crime, fired the shot that killed Dr. King.

After four weeks of testimony and one hour of deliberation, the jury in the wrongful-death case found that Loyd Jowers as well as ”others, including governmental agencies” had been part of a conspiracy. The jury awarded the King family the damages they had sought: $100, which the family says it will donate to charity.

The family has long questioned Mr. Ray’s conviction and hoped the suit would change the legal and historical record of the assassination.

”This is a vindication for us,” said Dexter King, the youngest son of Dr. King.

He said he hoped history books would be rewritten to reflect this version of the assassination.

Mr. Jowers, 73 and in failing health, owned Jim’s Grill in 1968, a restaurant opposite the motel where Dr. King was shot and just below the second-floor rooming house from which, according to James Earl Ray’s confession in 1969, Mr. Ray fired the single shot that killed Dr. King. Mr. Ray, who recanted his confession, hinted at a conspiracy. He died in prison last year while serving a 99-year sentence.

Mr. Jowers, in a 1993 television interview, said that he had hired a Memphis police officer to kill Dr. King from the bushes behind his restaurant. Mr. Jowers said he had been paid to do so by a Memphis grocery store owner with Mafia connections.

In an unlikely alliance, the King family was represented in the case by William Pepper, who had been Mr. Ray’s lawyer. The King family maintains that Mr. Pepper’s version of the assassination is the one that gets at the real truth behind Dr. King’s death, not the official version with Mr. Ray as the gunman.

Mr. Pepper said federal, state and Memphis governmental agencies, as well as the news media conspired in the assassination.

Mr. Jowers’s lawyer, Lewis Garrison, had said since the trial began that he agreed with 80 percent of Mr. Pepper’s conspiracy theories and disagreed only on the extent of his client’s involvement. In his closing argument today, Mr. Garrison repeated what he had said through the trial that his client participated in the conspiracy but did not know that it was a plot to kill Dr. King.

One juror, David Morphy, said after the trial, ”We all thought it was a cut and dried case with the evidence that Mr. Pepper brought to us, that there were a lot of people involved, everyone from the C.I.A., military involvement, and Jowers was involved.”

John Campbell, an assistant district attorney in Memphis, who was not part of the civil proceedings but was part of the criminal case against Mr. Ray, said, ”I’m not surprised by the verdict. This case overlooked so much contradictory evidence that never was presented, what other option did the jury have but to accept Mr. Pepper’s version?”

And Gerald Posner, whose recent book, ”Killing the Dream” made the case that Mr. Ray was the killer, said, ”It distresses me greatly that the legal system was used in such a callous and farcical manner in Memphis. If the King family wanted a rubber stamp of their own view of the facts, they got it.”