curls are acceptable

Seeing as this is byeracial blog, it’s about time I posted about hair.  Not my own.  I really do love my hair and I suppose it’s the one physical characteristic that gives a clue as to “what I am.”  Nothing more interesting to report on that. However, this article below is much more about identity and not having a culture to fall back on than it is about curls and that is interesting to me.  More often than not, when you’re mixed, you really don’t have that soft place to fall.  The mixed experience has historically been ignored, making it nearly impossible to forge a cultural identity.  Good news:  We have the opportunity to transcend attachment to a cultural identity.  Bad news: This leaves us at the whim of the cultural identities projected onto us.

RACE AND NATURAL HAIR- “YOU’RE MIXED SO YOU DON’T REALLY KNOW THE STRUGGLE.”

105_2119-1About a year ago, I wrote an article about how much I disliked being mixed because of my hair. These last few months, I realized that I didn’t embrace the natural hair life because of others and not me. I liked my curls and had already transitioned not knowing it. I still didn’t accept the fact that my curls were acceptable. In my mind, straight hair was the ideal. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to take care of my hair yet but the main reason I thought this was because of negative comments. Comments such as…”You should relax your hair again.”, “Your hair looks messy all the time.”, and the last and most important one was…”You need to stop trying to look black”. They always ended up going back to that one.

The race topic is one that strikes me the hardest when it comes to my hair. Many people believe that natural hair is just for blacks. They forget that the world is not simply made of blacks and whites. Many cultures and races have mixed. The end result of that is people like me. People who share features of both races or may only have features of one but who feel attached to both. I am a born and raised Dominican. If you spend a lot of time with Latinos or Dominicans, you will quickly realize that we believe we are a different race. It’s actually very confusing because there are a lot of forms that will have Hispanic/Latino as a choice for race and not for ethnicity. A lot of people will tell you that Latinos are not a separate race. This doesn’t stop us from feeling that way. The problem with this is that even though they have a lot of african heritage as well as native american heritage…they refuse to acknowledge it. It’s not a lack of education, but a lack of acceptance.

So what does this have to do with hair? If you’re black or if you’re Latino, you were most likely raised hearing negative comments about your hair. Now, you might be saying…”Well, I know. What’s your point?”. My point is that I didn’t have one or two races/ethnicity telling me I looked undesirable, I had three. This had an impact on how I felt about myself. Even though black naturals may get a lot of crap from relaxed hair women or women who naturally have straight hair… they still have natural sistas. I had and some times still don’t have a culture to really fall back on and say…”You understand what I’m going through”. The reason is that my skin is white and my physical features are mostly European. My hair is pretty much the only thing that lets you know that I’m mixed. This causes a problem because white people expect an image of me that I don’t quite complete, black people expect an image of me and Latinos/Dominicans expect a certain image of me. In comments and forums, I have received things like “Well, you’re mixed so you don’t really know the struggle”. In school, I was told my fro was a distraction (I never told anyone that). In the streets, I’ve been told…”Your skin is far too fair for you to wear your hair like this”(it was in a fro). You can take a guess at which races/ethnicity said each.

What I would like is for women to realize that you can’t really know someone else’s “struggle”. Relaxed women and natural women should stop trying to debate about what is the right choice, because guess what? It’s a personal choice. This also applies for big choppers and transitioners. It would also be nice if business people realized that curly/kinky hair doesn’t reduce our ability to work effectively. The last but the most is important is that I would like for people of all races to realize how much it hurts to be pushed away because of your skin color or your features. Usually when people think of racism, they think of whites against the minorities. The thing that most don’t realize though is that we judge each other just as much as other races do.

hair girls1

Keturah Ariel

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And to include the boys…Something about the commentary on this photo of Pete Wentz reeks of nappy headed-ho…😡

white man afro: Pete Wentz ditches his straightener, looks unrecognizable

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After a seemingly life-long love affair with his hair straightener, Pete Wentz has debuted a more natural, afro-esque head of hair. Gasp!

The emo rocker was launching a a new car or something, no-one knows for sure – all eyes were on his frizzy head pubes.

We’ve got to give the guy credit – he managed to get that thing poker-straight every day for years!

hair boys

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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.

because he was smart

Marian Anderson and Albert Einstein were friends!! Like, friends. Not acquaintances. I am related to Marian Anderson and she hung out with Einstein. Considering the purposefully reposted quote along side Einstein’s notion that the limiters of potential are limited as well, I imagine they had some profound conversations.  That’s nearly as impressive to me as her “dissing” the D.A.R. by singing on the steps outside in response to their choice to disrespect her in honor of the organization’s racial exclusion policy.

Anyway, here’s more on Einstein’s stand for equality. It was a lot more involved than delivering a speech at a University, and there are many more details here than in the article posted yesterday.  Not that the speech wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought. It was!  Not only was Mr. Einstein brave enough to speak out, he did it while he was ill.  Outside.  Ok, it was May, so maybe the weather was fine, but I’m just saying if he was looking for an excuse not to speak, sounds like he had it, but chose not to use it.  Instead, he got up there and spoke to the impressionable minds of the “first institution found anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent.”  If young African American males today are largely still in need of academic encouragement and inspiration and respect, I can only imagine how impactful and empowering Einstein’s presence alone was pre Brown vs. Board of Ed.  Just the simple fact that he spoke, and the forbidden, unspoken truth contained in his words.  I have a feeling this brilliant man knew exactly what he was doing.

Albert Einstein, I acknowledge your greatness as a champion of human and civil rights and your hand in illuminating the fact that limiting the potential of a significant portion of society limits everyone in that society

Thank you.

xo,

Tiff

einstein1d-m

Albert Einstein at Lincoln University

(photo of Marian Anderson in background?)

Albert Einstein passionately fought race prejudice, according to new and old docs

by Ronda Racha Penrice

Nearly 60 years after his death, the great scientist Albert Einstein is still making headlines. The launch of Einstein Archives Online — a more advanced repository of his work — is a long-term collaboration by Israel’s Hebrew University, which he co-founded, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he was a guest faculty member on several occasions, and Princeton University, where he was a faculty member, generated global attention on March 19. Eventually, over 80,000 documents held in Hebrew University’s Albert Einstein Archives and Caltech’s Einstein Papers Project will be available on the Internet. About 2,000 are currently available.

Despite this unprecedented access, however, one thing hasn’t changed: Einstein’s strong support of African-American civil rights and his defiant stance against racism are largely footnotes, especially for the mainstream press. While it will, no doubt, be exciting to pull up correspondence between Einstein and W.E.B. Du Bois one day, his association with Du Bois was just the tip of the iceberg.

Einstein, as documented in the 2003 book Einstein on Race and Racism by veteran science writer and journalist Fred Jerome, who also covered civil rights activity in the South in the 1960s, and New York librarian Rodger Taylor whose early writings have focused on jazz and early African-American life in New York, staunchly denounced racism and segregation in the United States, even as his health steadily failed and his own mortality drew nearer.

Jerome first delved into Einstein’s human rights advocacy in his 2002 book, The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist. In that groundbreaking work, Jerome highlighted a May 3, 1946 speech Einstein gave at historic Lincoln University, the alma mater of both Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes and, as its then president Horace Mann Bond pointed out, “the first institution found anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent.” Interestingly, a young Julian Bond, Horace Mann Bond’s son, was there that day.

The speech was especially significant because, as Jerome also writes in The Einstein File, “During the last twenty years of his life, Einstein almost never spoke at universities.” He routinely turned down almost all of the honorary degree requests he received.

On top of that, Einstein’s health was not the greatest. Yet, he stood outdoors to receive his honorary degree from Lincoln University, which can actually be viewed on the Einstein Archives Online now, and, even more importantly, spoke these poignant words reported in the Baltimore Afro-American May 11, 1946: “There is separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”

And he was not. Einstein, as Jerome notes in his essay The Hidden Half-Life of Albert Einstein: Anti-Racism for the Journal of the Research Group of Socialism and Democracy Online, spoke these words in a time known by some as “the Bloody Spring of 1946” because it was just after black men had returned from World War II to the harsh reality that the Double V campaign, which The Pittsburgh Courier especially championed, had succeeded in saving the world from Hitler, but had not destroyed racism at home. 

On February 25, 1946, William Fleming, a white radio repairman, assaulted Ms. Gladys Stephenson, a black woman, and her son James, a Navy veteran, defended her, resulting in both of their arrests. When some white men, including four policemen, headed towards the black side of town, known as Mink Slide, later that evening, they found that a group of veterans had organized themselves for self-defense, and shots were fired.

“African-Americans firing on white policemen was enough for the governor to rush in 500 State Troopers with submachine guns who attacked Mink Slide, destroying virtually every black-owned business in the four-square-block area, seizing whatever weapons they could find, and arresting more than one hundred black men,” writes Jerome.

Twenty-five of the black men arrested were indicted for attempted murder. Einstein immediately joined the National Committee for Justice in Columbia, Tennessee, headed by Eleanor Roosevelt and also supported by Mary McLeod Bethune, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Joe Louis, A. Phillip Randolph and Langston Hughes that March. With Thurgood Marshall serving as the chief defense attorney, 24 of the 25 men were acquitted.

The violence didn’t stop in Columbia. On July 26, the heinous murder of two black men, one a veteran, and their wives in Monroe, Georgia was even reported by the New York Times. As with the majority of these acts of domestic terrorism, justice was not served. Einstein was outraged enough to lend his prominence to actor and activist Paul Robeson’s American Crusade to End Lynching (ACEL) that September.

Despite being too ill to participate in the mass rally at the Lincoln Memorial on September 23, 1946 (the day after Lincoln proposed the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in 1862), Einstein penned a brief letter to President Truman confirming his support of the ACEL.

“May I wholeheartedly endorse the aims of this delegation, in the conviction that the overwhelming majority of the American people is demanding that every citizen be guaranteed protection from acts of violence,” he wrote. That same month, Einstein penned a much longer letter in support of the National Urban League Convention that highlighted the economic injustices, among other inequalities, experienced by black Americans.

When the Nassau Inn in Princeton refused Marian Anderson lodging during her 1937 concert there, Einstein invited her into his home as a guest and they maintained a friendship. Anderson actually stayed in the Einstein home in 1955 two months before his death. Before Einstein even came to this country permanently in 1933, he responded to a 1931 letter written to him by Du Bois, who had studied at the University of Berlin where Einstein was on the faculty, to write something small against racism to be published in The Crisis. Later, Einstein supported Du Bois even as Senator McCarthy placed him at the top of his target list.

From the Scottsboro Boys case to the numerous attempts to stop the execution of Willie McGee, a black Mississippi sharecropper accused of raping a white woman, and efforts to prevent New Jersey from extraditing Sam Buckhannon, a black Georgian who had escaped a chain gang after serving 18 years for stealing a pack of cigarettes, Einstein used his fame to condemn American racism.

In the wake of the monumental effort to digitize Einstein’s life and genius for the masses, let’s hope that more of us will follow Jerome’s lead, and acknowledge Einstein’s greatness as a champion of human and civil rights for African-Americans as one of his greatest contributions to the world.

old paris, eiffel

Excerpted from a blog post by Rodger Taylor on a presentation in Paris about Einstein and racism:

The Book in Bed presentation was by far the largest audience — it seemed a hundred or so people. Half of them appeared to be high school aged.

“Einstein was White. Why should or did he care about racism?” — was a question asked by a French high school student. The question sparked conversation and also framed our presentation the next day.

Some of the responses as to why included:

Because Einstein was smart.

Because he realized that limiting the potential of a significant portion of society limits everyone in that society.

Because he was empathetic — and if he could imagine what is was like to be a beam of light projected into space, he could imagine what it was like to be black in America.

Because he got to know black people on a personal basis — both in the town of Princeton where he lived and beyond and that made a signficiant difference in how he felt about the racism they experienced.

a more appropriate (not to mention genius) exhibit

now this is the kind of exhibit i’d pay to see! i would like to take this time to say “told ya so.”  not that anyone’s really argued against this point with me.  i’m just sayin’… it doesn’t exist… and yet it dictates life chances and prevents us from being open to what exists and really matters in ourselves and each other.

Museum of Science explores science, concept of race

By Chris Bergeron/DAILY NEWS STAFF

BOSTON —An African, an Asian and a North American viewing the new exhibit “Race” at the Museum of Science might be surprised to discover they have more in common than individuals of any other species on Earth.

They would learn their variously colored complexions derive from how their skin processes folate and vitamin D. The African would find he’s susceptible to sickle cell anemia, not because of his race but because of the prevalence of malaria in his homeland.

And all three might be troubled to learn world-famous psychologist Arthur Jensen has written that differences in their intelligence can be attributed to their racial origins.

By the exhibit’s end, each might answer the question in its subtitle, “Are We So Different?” by saying, “No, not based on our genes.”

Combining scientific, anthropological and historical evidence, the exhibit argues the fundamental concept of race and racial differences has no biological basis but is a man-made distinction with immeasurable social consequences over the centuries.

Developed by the American Anthropological Association and Science Museum of Minnesota, “Race” invites visitors to examine race and racism through exhibits, interactive stations and artifacts.

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Museum President and Director Ioannis Miaoulis said it’s the first exhibit to examine race and human variations using the most up-to-date genetic discoveries.

“This exhibit can be inspiring, revealing and even life-changing,” he said opening the show last Thursday.

Chioma Nnaji, research coordinator of the UMass Horizon Center in Boston, praised the exhibit for explaining how a broad misunderstanding of race “complicated” relations between people by emphasizing superficial differences over shared interests.

Citing cutting-edge genetic research, the exhibit states, “Race is a recent human invention.”

Nina Catubig Nolan, chairwoman of the museum’s Race education team, said, “The idea of race doesn’t have a basis in biology. Humans from around the world share 99.5 percent of their genes. That’s more than chimpanzees or fruit flies,” she said.

Flawed science results in social injustice.

The failure to recognize our common genetic heritage is demonstrated by a photo that shows how the U.S. Census labeled people based on mistaken ideas of pigmentation and appearance.

From 1850 to 2000, a mixed-race woman would have been variously described as “mulatto,” “Negro” or, recently, “White and African American.” From 1930 to 1990, a woman from Tijuana who moved to Texas would have been labeled “Mexican,” “white” and “Hispanic white.” Over the course of the 20th century, Inuit women have been called “Indians,” “Eskimos” and in 2000 “Alaska natives.”

Wall text by that photo states: “The idea of race is tied to power and hierarchy among people. The legacy of race continues to shape the lives and relationships of people in the U.S. and around the world.”

Paul Fontaine, vice-president of education at the Museum of Science, said “Race” provides “a perfect opportunity to look at a sociological issue through a scientific lens.”

Museum official sought to open the exhibit just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and over the following months to encourage discussion about a timely issue and provide an opportunity to present related events and activities, he said.

“When we first saw ‘Race,’ we loved the way it was presented. It was powerful and emotional and based on current genetic research. From this exhibit, visitors will learn race is an artificial construct. Yet it has been the basis for categorizing people and all the negative reactions that have followed from that,” said Fontaine.

“Race” includes fascinating, even a few disturbing, artifacts.

A “hair color table” that measured the spectrum of hair color from Aryan blonde to less desirable shades was used by Nazis to provide a scientific basis for the practice of “racial hygiene” that legitimized the deaths of millions of “non-Aryan” Jews, gypsies and Slavs.

Closer to home, visitors can see a placard for a “Colored Waiting Room” and a sign announcing “We want white tenants for our white community.”

And debunking a television crime show staple, the exhibit uses photos and expert testimony to show forensic pathologists can not definitively determine a victim’s race from their bones and teeth with the regularity or ease of investigators on “CSI Miami.”

Unlike many Museum of Science exhibits, “Race” devotes more than half its gallery space to establishing a historical and social context for its premise that humans have misused the idea as a tool to discriminate rather than seek common ground.

The most effective parts of the exhibit help visitors understand the genetic science that provides the exhibit’s foundation. By twisting a dial, visitors can direct human migration from 100,000 B.C. to 40,000 B.C. across a world map.

At the exhibit’s opening, musician and sound artist Halsey Burgund previewed a segment of his audio installation, “Voices Without Faces, Voices Without Race,” which consists of snippets of conversation from more than 250 people discussing race.

Commissioned by the museum, he recorded people along Rte. 128 responding to three questions: When did you first become aware of race? When were you first privileged by or discriminated against because of race? And, What is your experience of race in Boston? The audio installation will open Feb. 3.

Khaalie Parham, a 15-year-old sophomore at Community Charter School in Cambridge, said people react differently to him depending on whether he’s in his predominantly white hometown of Belmont or among his peers.

“Race has a huge significance in my life. If I’m in Belmont, people look at me differently or cross to the other side of the street than I’m walking on,” he said. “In my school, race isn’t much of a factor. But if people look past differences and what other people say and follow their own mind, then race stops dividing people.

THE ESSENTIALS:

WHAT: “Race: Are We So Different?”

WHERE: Museum of Science, Science Park, Boston

WHEN: Through May 15

ADMISSION: $21 for adults, $19 for seniors (60+) and $18 for children (3-11)

INFO: 617-723-2500, TTY 617-589-0417, www.mos.org.

Visit the American Anthropological Association’s Race Project at www.understandingrace.org

SOURCE

chastity brown

Never heard of her, but my interest has been piqued.  Cool name.  Cool hair.  The hair story she relays at the end calls to mind the biracial girl who was removed from her classroom.  You can read the interview in it’s entirety HERE and/or check out her website HERE.

Chastity Brown releases High Noon Teeth

Soul singer straddles multiple genres

By Rob van Alstyne

CP: Your prior album, Sankofa, was almost entirely made up of personal confessionals, whileHigh Noon Teeth incorporates more narrative storytelling and poetic metaphor. Why the shift in tone?

Brown: Some of the songs on Sankofa I hope to never sing again because they’re just so personal. That whole album was a reckoning of sorts that I felt like I had to go through to get to where I am now with my music. I was definitely writing much more imaginative songs this time around, rather than just about my personal experiences, and that was new for me. I talked about metaphors in songwriting a lot with Alexei [Casselle of Roma di Luna] and Joe [Horton, a.k.a. Eric Blair of No Bird Sing] while I was writing the album because that was all new terrain for me, and they both write songs just swarming with beautiful images. I don’t feel the need to be as blatant as I used to. This record was really all about pushing outside of my normal comfort zone and trying to take things to the next level creatively. Hopefully fans that have followed me for a while will appreciate that things are changing.

CP: One holdover from Sankofa is the presence of a song about your childhood, growing up biracial in small-town Tennessee (on Sankofa it was called “Bluegrassy Tune”; it’s present onHigh Noon Teeth in a new arrangement titled “Bound to Happen”). It’s an unflinchingly intense narrative (“Well my daddy was a black man and my mom blond hair, blue eyed/You know people would stare at us children/Like we were some suspicious kind”). What led you to feature it again this time around?

Brown: I decided to record that song the very last day I was in the studio for Sankofa when it was still super new. As I was playing it with the band, it rearranged itself and fine-tuned itself so I wanted to present it again. It’s an important song to me. At least once a week probably I still encounter some stupid racial situation. People ask me all the time if my hair is real, and I was at a show where a woman actually grabbed my hair and jerked it out of nowhere. It caught me so off guard and I remember going home and crying and being so angry. I felt conflicted, part of me wanted to educate her and part of me wanted to smack her and say, “How dare you touch me!” So the song is sort of my way of reaching out and taking the educational route and saying this is who I am and what my experiences have been. Depictions of mixed-race people are very popular in the media now and it’s a little strange for me because I’ve always looked this way. Growing up I was constantly made fun of for my hair; apparently now it’s a cool look.

oblivious to racial overtones

I am pained by this story.  I remember being this little girl.  I remember being singled out at times, usually not having anything to do with my hair unless it was mandatory school-wide lice check day.  No one wanted to deal with me then.  And that was fine with me.  But it wasn’t really.  I can only imagine the consequences this incident will have for this little girl.  Her parents really have their work cut out for them now.  I hope they sue and win big!  The damage is done.  Let’s hope it can be undone.  Oh, and I’d like to send the Mudede family a copy of Teri LaFlesh’s Curly Like Me.  All you need is conditioner people.  All you need is conditioner…

Biracial Girl Removed From Classroom Because Of Her Hair

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

VIA

This story is an example of the sad fact that within schools, sensitivity training can only go so far – sometimes, there are unpredictable situations where teachers just have to intuitively react, and often they’re not prepared to do so.  And often, these issues are much larger than they appear on the surface.  Such is the case with the 8-year-old biracial student who was removed from her advanced-placement class because the teacher claimed that she was allergic to the girl’s hair moisturizer.  The teacher first put the girl in the hallway, and then moved her to a different classroom where she found herself in a lower-level class with predominately African-American students.

This behavior seems bizarre enough – but add the fact that the girl was the only student of color  in her school’s accelerated program, and the concerns of her angry parents, who may now sue the school (the NAACP, along with the Department of Education, have already filed a complaint), seem justified.  The girl’s father, Charles Mudede, is black, and says that he had talked to his daughter about resisting pressures to straighten her hair so that she would look more like her white classmates.  The product that so irritated the teacher was a compromise, Mudede said, “something light that kept her hair in its natural state.”

The girl’s parents have a host of questions to which there seem to be no adequate answers: “Why did the teacher think the problem was his daughter’s hair? Why hadn’t the school called the parents? What investigation was being done to pinpoint the source of the problem? And, finally, why did the school seem oblivious to the racial overtones of a white teacher singling out her only black student?”

Mudede says that the situation escalated because no one at the school seemed prepared to answer these basic questions.  He wrote on his blog,

“When we, her parents, were later informed of this incident, we also learned that once my daughter was removed from the class, the teacher felt much better. We were also told that the teacher had experienced something like a fainting spell because of our daughter’s hair. Feeling the seriousness of this situation, we decided not to send our daughter to school until the teacher had medical proof that our daughter’s hair or something in her hair was to blame for the nausea. (The last thing you want to happen to your daughter is for a teacher to faint or vomit at the mere sight of her.)

Days passed and the school took no action. This unresponsiveness left us with no other choice than to turn to a lawyer. The whole thing is a mess. Getting entangled in a racial dilemma is something most black parents do not want for their children. It’s just not worth the trouble. Then again, like I said, if not checked and confronted, the incident will have permanent consequences for my child.”

And although the school is now making limited comments because of the threat of a lawsuit, it definitely seems as though this situation was horrifically mismanaged; without communicating privately with the student and involving the parents, of course this would turn into a humiliating ordeal for a little girl who clearly was already suffering from self-esteem issues.  If the teacher had allergies, that’s something that she couldn’t help.  But to target the student in such a dismissive embarrassing way shows a level of insensitivity that no teacher should have.

curly like me

It’s here!  The answer to our curly-headed prayers.  I’ve been referring people to Teri LaFlesh’s website for over a year now, and am thrilled to be able to point my fellow biracials, parents of mixies, and anyone else with a “wild” mane to her book Curly Like Me.  Teri was kind enough to send me an advanced copy so that I could write a blurb.  Here’s what I wrote…

“With Curly Like Me, Teri LaFlesh has provided us curly heads with THE Bible of hair care for our tightly curled manes.  If you thought your (or your child’s) hair was hard to manage, Teri will prove you wrong.  After suffering through relaxers, jheri curls, texturizing, dreadlocks, weaves, and extensions, Teri stopped fighting against her curls and embarked on a journey to embrace them.  The results are stunning!  Teri discovered a simple, easy to follow technique that produces healthy, happy, beautiful curls freeing us from chemicals, heat, and perpetual ponytails.  She’s layed it out step by step, providing us with the do’s, the don’ts, and even the why’s!  A more thorough hair care manual we could not ask for.  Perhaps even more momentous though is the journey toward self acceptance that lies in the pages of the book.  It seems as though Ms. LaFlesh learned that what happens when we try to make our hair into something that it is not, is a mirror of what happens when we try to make our SELF into something that it is not.  Curly Like Me is also about embracing every aspect of one’s authentic self. That beautiful and unique being that the world will not be able to experience if we waste our energy fighting against it in hopes of conforming to that which we’re told every day on television, in magazines, and in the movies is ‘normal’ and ‘good.’  The struggle against the “real” hair becomes symbolic of the inner struggle against the real self.  Teri says, ‘I treated my curls as if they weren’t good enough in their natural state.  Yet after all I had done to them they, couldn’t be crushed.’  The same can be said of the human spirit.  Thank you, Teri!!”

so, if you’d like your (or your child’s) hair to look like this someday….

…go buy this book!!  You can get it HERE.

long hair

 

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When I was little I wanted Crystal Gayle’s hair.  I found it fascinating, maybe miraculous.  No disrespect to Ms. Gayle, but doesn’t appeal to me much these days.  I do find these vintage photographs interesting tho.

 

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Do you imagine that this was some kind of club?