I heart New York!

I am so f’in excited about this that I can’t even organize my thoughts. But I’m gonna try.  So yesterday, just like the first time I voted for Obama, I ran to the school where I vote to mark my ballot for…

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deblasio ask anything

Now, I must admit that though I do like what little I know of his politics and am not shy about my democratic tendencies, I was really voting for…

deblasio fam

For the guy who prompted a good friend of mine to text, “Are those his kids!?” as de Blasio delivered his sagacious acceptance speech standing amidst his family.

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I voted for the man who once made the bold choice to give up some of his white privilege to live the life he wanted with the woman he loved.  For the guy with kids that remind me of me.  For the family that looks like mine did once.

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I voted for a future where people have learned to see this:

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and think “family.”  A friend of mine once wrote in a wonderful novel*, “What a family is should shouldn’t be so hard to see.  It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.”  That is Truth. But for some of us it hasn’t been the truth of our experience.  And that doesn’t feel so good.

Now…maybe, soon… people will see this

New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio embraces his daughter Chiara during a campaign rally in Brooklyn, New York

or this 😉

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and think Father/Daughter, and not Age “Inappropriate” Interracial Couple?

I voted for the future I always wanted to be my present.  I left that school and I skipped up the block.  Just for, like, 17 seconds cuz I am 37 years old after all, but I just couldn’t contain the joy! I couldn’t have predicted that feeling either.  I think that even though we have the Obamas, it’s not quite the same and I figured it wouldn’t get any better than that.  It just did!   Thank you de Blasio Family and thank you New York City!  xo-Tiff

*The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

P.S. Here’s a fun, and totally non-political, article.  I love what Chiara says about seeing what other people have to go through.  She acknowledges her white privilege.  Yeah, we get a fraction of that too.

Chiara & Dante de Blasio: 5 Things To Know About New NYC Mayor’s Kids

Wed, November 6, 2013  by 

The newly elected NYC mayor’s teens are just about the coolest kids in politics — and their edgy fashion senses, trendy hairstyles, and enthusiastic participation in their dad’s campaign are just the beginning. Here’s what you need to know about Chiara and Dante!

Chiara de Blasio, 18, and Dante de Blasio, 16 are such stylish young adults that they nearly stole the spotlight away from their dad, Bill de Blasio, who was elected the new mayor of New York City on Nov. 4. Learn more about the new first kids of NYC!

5 Things To Know About NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Kids

1. Chiara and Dante are really smart! Dante is a high school junior at Brooklyn Tech, which one of the city’s elite public high schools. Chiara, is a sophomore in college at a private liberal arts school in northern California. She plans to major in environmental studies.

2. Dante’s afro is so cool that absolutely everyone is noticing! President Barack Obama even mentioned it at a Democratic Party Fundraiser in New York in Sept. 2013. He “has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” Obama told the crowd before complimenting his look. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” Chiara loves switching up her own style, from sporting floral crown hair accessories to trying out dreads.

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3. Dante was featured in his dad’s campaign ads, and his videos quickly went viral. Chiara also expressed that she loved being part of her dad’s campaign process. “I like understanding what’s going on better. In every way I think that I’m lucky to live the life that I live,” Chiara told NY Mag. ”I don’t have a lot of the problems that other people have. It’s very important for me to see what other people go through.

4. Chiara’s fashion sense is completely new for a first daughter of New York City. She has ear gauges, an eyebrow piercing, and a nose piercing.

5. Chiara has publicly said that her dad is not “some boring white guy,” and that his cultural awareness comes from his global projects and his own multi-cultural family! Chiara and Dante’s dad, Bill comes from German and Italian American backgrounds and their mom, Chirlane McCray is African American. “A lot of people could look at him and just see the color of his skin, but it’s so much deeper than that,” Chiara told NY Mag.

…and then

It happens to be Loving Day which is what prompted me to finally get around to posting about the Cheerios.  Happy Loving Day! Interracial Marriage (black/white) has been legal for a grand total of….46 years!  That’s only ten more years than I have existed!  So in the grand scheme, if there is still a small to medium segment of the population who simply has not taken advantage of any opportunity to grow out of this debilitating mindset, well, that’s only to be expected… and it’s too bad for them… and absolutely ok with me actually.  Love people where they are, right?

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Here’s a nice article that brings together the Cheerios and the Lovings.

Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism

Editor’s note: June 12 is the 46th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,  which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.  Thousands of people nationwide celebrate that anniversary as “Loving Day’.  Ken Tanabe is the founder and president of Loving Day, an international, annual celebration that aims to build multicultural community and fight racial prejudice through education. He is a speaker on multiracial identity, community organizing and social change through design. 

By Ken Tanabe, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Racism is alive and well in 2013, and what’s striking is the recent notable examples aimed at interracial couples – or one of their children.

Even breakfast cereal commercials aren’t safe. A recent Cheerios ad depicting an interracial couple and their multiracial child got so many racist remarks on YouTube that the company had to disable the comments.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the commercial, except that the parents happen to be an interracial couple.

But the truth is, racially blended families are becoming more ordinary every day, due to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

Opinion: Two different marriage bans, both wrong.

Today is the 46th anniversary of that decision, and one in seven new marriages in the United States is interracial or interethnic.  Multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing youth demographic.

Number of interracial couples in U.S. reaches all-time high:

While the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial made it newsworthy, there were also many others who showed their support for the Cheerios brand.

Multiracial Americans of Southern California, a multiethnic community group, started a Facebook album for people to post photos of themselves holding a box of Cheerios. And in articles and in social media, supporters expressed gratitude to General Mills for depicting a multiracial family.

The weddings of two multiracial couples from high-profile families also prompted racist comments online. Lindsay Marie Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan, a black Jamaican man. And Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift, a woman of color.

The reaction to these marriages is reminiscent of the response to the marriage of Peggy Rusk – the daughter of then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk – and Guy Smith, a black man. In 1967, interracial marriage was a cover story, several months after laws against interracial marriage were struck down.

Things have changed since then, but not enough.

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans approved of “marriage between blacks and whites.”  In 1958, the approval rating was 4%. But it makes me wonder: What do the other 14% of Americans think? Apparently, many of them spend a lot of time leaving comments online.

The election of Barack Obama inspired many of us to hope that widespread racism was a relic of the past.

And while he was elected to a second term, we must not be complacent when it comes to racism in our daily lives. We must seek out opportunities to educate others about the history of our civil rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  I wonder what he would think of our collective progress as the 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech approaches.

On June 15th, the 10th annual Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City will draw an expected 1,500 guests. And while many participants are multiracial, anyone can host a Loving Day Celebration for friends and family, and make it a part of their annual traditions.

We need to work collectively to fight prejudice through education and build a strong sense of multiethnic community. If we do, one day we might live in a nation where the racial identities of politicians’ children’s spouses are no longer national news, and cereal commercials are more about cereal than race.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ken Tanabe.

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Mildred and Richard Loving

Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing, April, 1965

 Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing April 1965

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.

happy?

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puppy-st patricks day

 

I’ve always been moderately uncomfortable with St. Patrick’s Day, but these images make me smile. Perhaps they indicate a shift in mass perspective to one more inclusive.  Maybe “O’Bama” has something to do with it.  Regardless of the catalyst, it’s something I can be comfortable with.  Hello again, btw…

whiteness defined

This one is so good that I don’t have perspective to add or anything witty to say about it.  However that could just be because I’ve only had three hours of sleep and just can’t do any better.  Either way, this excerpt of a transcript of an NPR interview is definitely worth reading and pondering.  You could also listen to it in it’s entirety HERE.

Author Examines ‘The History Of White People’

Once upon a time, notorious laws in this country defined as black anyone with as much as one drop of black blood. Similar laws struggled with the rights of people of mixed race, octoroons, for example. But nowhere can you find a definition of white people, and as a practical matter, that non-definition has changed. Ethnic groups now regarded as white Irish, Jews, Italians – were once very much on the outside.

These points (are) from Nell Irvin Painter’s new book, “The History of White People,” which traces ideas about color and race from antiquity to the Obama administration.

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I’m Neal Conan in Washington. Nell Irvin Painter is our guest…

CONAN: …you conclude at the end of your book, you say the fundamental black-white binary endures even though the category of whiteness or we might say more precisely a category of non-blackness effectively expands. That non-blackness, is that by lack of a definition of whiteness?

Ms. PAINTER: Yeah, that’s about how it goes. There as you noted, there have not been legal definitions of whiteness. It’s kind of what’s leftover from blackness.

CONAN: What isn’t.

Ms. PAINTER: And blackness, there’s the idea of a one-drop rule is an idea. What the states did was say one-fourth, one-eighth, that kind of thing, one grandparent, one great-grandparent. That’s how they decided what one drop was.

I suppose people use the word one drop because actually color disappears very quickly in people. And so you can look functionally white with one black grandparent, which in most places would make you legally black. So what makes you black has been defined and redefined and re-re-redefined. What makes you white is what’s leftover.

CONAN: And in fact, you say that has been, well, ill-defined but redefined and redefined over the years, too.

Ms. PAINTER: Yeah…  The whole point of defining races is mostly to put people down, and so those needs change over time. Who do you want to put down? Well, you want to put down, say, Jews and Italians and Slavs 100 years ago, but 150 years ago, you wanted to put down the Irish.

…We think of race as something physical, biological and permanent, but the way people used race in the 19th and 20th centuries and probably still today is that it has to do with temperament, racial temperament. So how people look on the outside is a key to what they’re like on the inside, their temperament. So that had to do with Protestantism, too.

…CONAN: It’s interesting, Nell Irvin Painter, you describe how, in fact, racial laws made a transition in the late part of the 20th century from being used to exclude persons of color to define injustices against persons of color.

Ms. PAINTER: Not persons of color, Negroes, to be exact. The laws were against Negroes. But you’re absolutely right that before desegregation, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all those laws, exclusionary laws, were meant to keep Negroes out. And the counting up was to keep Negroes out.

And after that, particularly after the 1970s, the need to rectify the injustices meant that we had to count people in order to straighten things out. So now we count up racial categories, say, to track mortgage lending, where there’s still a good deal of racial discrimination.

So in the census, the census keeps counting us by race for purposes of undoing racial harm in the past.

Read more (or listen) HERE

“kinds” of biracial

Fantastic commentary on something that I totally missed in the media.  I honestly don’t know who Drake is.  I’ll look him up in a sec…. Oh. I see.  Anyway, Whitney Teal makes such great points here (a fav being that one would never compare G.W. Bush to Eminem), and has me wanting to make a list of all the “kinds of biracial” that I can imagine.  And then I want to study the intricacies of the experiences that molded the various varieties of biracialness.  I love biracial.  It never gets old for me.  I suppose you can call me Captain Obvious for that statement.

Is One Mulatto the Same as the Next?

VIA

By Whitney Teal

Has the election of President Obama changed the way we think about biracial people in this country? I’d argue that it’s questionable. Especially when people are drawing comparisons between the prez — a half-white, half-Kenyan, Ivy League-educated lawyer — and Aubrey Graham, otherwise known as Drake, who is a half-Jewish and half-African-American entertainer from Canada. Yeah, I don’t see the similarities either.

Image of Thomas Chatterton Williams

thomas chatterton williams

But TheRoot.com contributor Thomas Chatterton Williams, who describes himself as the son of a black father and a white mother,” seems to think that the two mulattoes (his word, not mine) deserve a comparison. Yes, Williams thinks that it’s helpful to compare a Canadian rapper and the President (as he puts it, one of the “most visible mulattoes living and working today”). And he’s not alone, either. A few months back, a couple of my Twitter friends and I ripped Chester French band member David-Andrew ‘D.A.’ Wallach a new one for tweeting that he was discussing “all the similarities” between the two men. When I asked him to explain himself, he replied, “For one, I think they’re both extremely studied.” Womp, womp, cop-out. Lots of men are studied. President Obama and Drake are both, simply, biracial. And they’re not even the same “kind” biracial either, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference.

When I showed my sister the story on The Root, she screamed (via Google Messenger) and replied, “Obama and Drake in the same sentence? Do people mention [President] Bush and Eminem in the same sentence?” She’s right. White men are allowed to choose their own identities. Black men not so much, and biracial men certainly not. Which begs the question, why can’t we see that one biracial person is not the same as the next?

In general, polite company, we as general, polite people, recognize that a person’s experiences are not solely dictated by their race or ethnicity. For example, I don’t think people considering Lucy Liu, a famous actress, and Connie Chung, an award-winning journalist, would try and argue that the two have much in common, at least on the surface. The same with Denzel Washington and Reggie Bush, or Barbara Streisand and Heidi Fleiss. No comparisons. But people, general and polite as they are, still seem to view the experiences of biracial people in this country as singular in nature.

And often, as The Root essay explores, polarizing. “Mixed-race blacks […] are the physical incarnation of a racial dilemma that all blacks inevitably must confront: To sell out or keep it real? That is the question,” writes Williams, who spends the better part of 1,000 words waxing on about the definition of authentic blackness (or at least how he sees it). According to Williams, a mixed-race person must choose to be black, like the president and like Drake, who “both proudly define themselves as black.” A mixed-race person must then “act black,” which Williams sees as wearing loose clothes and playing basketball.

If blackness meant just one thing, and if mixed-race people were able to align themselves with just one part of their identity, then his essay might hold more weight. But black people don’t have just one identity, at least not to ourselves. Hollywood directors, novelists and journalists may see us as trash-talking, saggy pant-wearing basketball fanatics, but I don’t think that’s how we see ourselves. And by asserting that he can turn his black switch on and off, simply by altering the fit of his pants, Williams — though he may identify as black — shows how much he doesn’t understand the complexity of black culture.

Which is why I don’t believe that we should automatically label mixed-race people as black; they’re mixed-race. Being biracial may be similar to African-American culture, just as West African and West Indian cultures share similarities to black culture, but ultimately have their own dialects, dress, worship practices, food and courtship rituals. But biracial people etch out their own identities. Sure, they may be similar to that of African-Americans or other cultures. But it’s limiting to both black and biracial people when society automatically labels anyone with brown skin and textured hair black. Whether we’re talking about President Obama or anyone else, what it means to be biracial is an entirely individual question.

a fearless champion

I knew nothing of Evelyn Cunningham before her death.  Shame on me.  All I know now is that in the name of Evelyn, in the name of Lena, and in the name of the nameless:  I have got to do better.  I’m posting segments of the New York Times obituary of Ms. Cunningham and what I presume to be one of the last interviews with her that appeared in the NY Daily News in November of 2009.  For whatever reason, today I am particularly struck by what she said about her four husbands.  I feel a feminist kick coming on…

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Evelyn Cunningham, a civil-rights-era journalist and later an aide to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York, died on Wednesday (April 28th, 2010) in Manhattan. She was 94 and lived in Harlem most of her life.

At a time when few women worked at newspapers — never mind as reporters handling hard news — Ms. Cunningham covered many of the civil rights era’s biggest stories, including the battle over school desegregation in Birmingham, Ala., and the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Starting in 1940, she worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor for The Pittsburgh Courier, a black newsweekly with nationwide circulation. Much of that time she worked out of the paper’s New York office.

In the newsroom, she was nicknamed “Big East,” partly because of her height, 5-foot-11 in heels. She also became known as the “lynching editor,” a reference to her reporting on such killings in the segregated South.

…Ms. Cunningham entered another realm of public life in the late 1960s, when she took a job as special assistant to Governor Rockefeller, who had been impressed with her when she interviewed him as a candidate.

Governor Rockefeller named her to lead an office on women’s affairs, and she later served on many government panels dealing with women’s rights and community issues. She continued to advise him when he became President Gerald R. Ford’s vice president.

Evelyn Elizabeth Long was born on Jan. 25, 1916, in Elizabeth City, N.C., the daughter of a taxi driver and a dressmaker. She moved with her parents to New York as a child, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University. She had no children.

…Politically, Ms. Cunningham described herself as a “Rockefeller Republican,” Ms. Bell-Stevens said. “She said, ‘That means I’m a liberal Republican,’ and then she would add in more recent years that there hasn’t been a good one since.”

In a statement, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, who appointed Ms. Cunningham to a commission on women’s issues in 2002, said, “With the passing of Evelyn Cunningham, all New Yorkers and all Americans who value our ideals of liberty and justice for all have lost a good friend and a fearless champion.”

…Ms. Cunningham married four times, taking the name of her third husband. Her fourth marriage was to Austin Brown, a Juilliard-trained pianist and watchmaker who died last year.

“Each one of my husbands tried to diminish my independence and my work,” Ms. Cunningham said in a profile in The New York Times in 1998. “They all loved me most while I was cooking — and I am not a good cook.”

Well-versed journalist Evelyn Cunningham writing piece on ‘unknown black history’

CLEM RICHARDSON

Monday, November 23rd 2009

VIA

She has interviewed and worked with some of the most historically significant people of the past 60 years; Nelson Rockefeller, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, Sheriff Eugene (Bull) Connor, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Yet at 93 years old and after a journalism career that began in 1940 with the Pittsburgh Courier, it’s American women of all races who most impress Evelyn Cunningham.

“The women in my country, there does not seem to be anything they cannot be,” she said. “Presidents, heads of banks, millionaires. In the United States, women seem to gain or get practically everything they want.”

Seated on an overstuffed chair in the sunny study of her Riverside Drive apartment in Harlem, the television tuned to CNN, Cunningham said “I’m still a reporter, every inch of me.”

Though she doesn’t get out as much as she used to, Cunningham said she’s busy.

With the help of a group of local college students who do her leg work (“They think I’m this talky old lady,” she said.), she is writing and rewriting a piece on black history.

“I call it unknown black history, and there is a lot of it out there,” she said. “So much of black history is unknown, but even I am shocked to find out how much of it there is.

“Black people don’t even know what’s missing,” said Cunningham, who declined to give examples pending publication of her work. “That intrigues me to no end. Here I am part of a people who do not know much of their history.”

Cunningham honed her reporting skills covering lynchings in the South before and during the civil rights movement.

She was one of the first reporters to identify the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a rising leader in the movement, and once asked Connor, who became infamous for using police dogs and fire hoses on peaceful demonstrators, for an interview.

He walked away.

Cunningham and several members of the Pittsburgh Courier staff of her era were awarded a George Polk Award in 1998 for the paper’s civil rights reporting.

After the civil rights era, Cunningham went on to hold a variety of civic and government positions, including special assistant to New York Gov. Rockefeller and on President Nixon’s Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities.

Having lived and worked in the segregated South – she was born in Elizabeth, N.C.- Cunningham said Barack Obama’s election “is hard to believe, hard to believe.

“No, I did not see it happening,” she said. “I never saw it, imagined it, or believed it, and here we got a black President.

“I met him right here in this apartment,” she said. “He came up to see me when he first visited the city. I adored him. He was a natural born leader.

“He is the greatest thing to hit our country.”

But if Cunningham could cover one story today it would not be local.

“I would go to Africa,” she said. “There is so much … I can only put it this way, dirty work going on there that even Africans don’t want people to know.

“That bothers me. It’s terrible and sad.”

empower women, eliminate racism

March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010

Thank you, Dr. Dorothy Height!

Here’s an excerpt of a 2008 NPR interview with Dr. Height.  You can read the transcript in its entirety HERE.

Civil Rights Elder Sees Dream Come True

hosted by Michel Martin

MARTIN:  Dr. Dorothy Height began a lifetime of activism during the Great Depression, a time when the simple right to vote free of the fear of violence seemed like an impossible dream for many African-Americans. And at the of 96, she is still going to the office just about every day trying to further the cause of equal rights for all Americans. She’s serving as chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women. She was kind enough to receive us at her office on historic Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday. We’re talking about President-elect Barack Obama’s historic win.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask you about that because you have been working in this field since you were a very young woman. I mean, really, your entire adult life. Since your early 20s you’ve been an activist. Did you believe this day would come in your lifetime?

…Dr. HEIGHT: Well, you know, I guess I got to – my faith was renewed working for 33 years with the YWCA of the United States. And I went there as a secretary or a staffer or something related to interracial education. After 33 years, I retired as a director of the Center for Racial Justice, and I split this organization, that from 1946 really set out to open its services to all women, regardless of race or with full regard for race, and so I saw the way an organization that was founded by white, Protestant women that now is very inclusive, and I was a part of that development.

When the YWCA in 1946 adopted an interracial charter, that was ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on Brown versus the Board of Education, so that in a sense I had already the experience. And I listened to people when they kept saying – well, some people, particularly white people, will say this but they won’t go in. I also know that I worked with many white women who took a strong stand but they didn’t discuss it at home because their husbands didn’t agree with them, but they worked hard to see that the YWCA was integrated, as they called it. And today, the YWCA has Empower Women and Eliminate Racism as its slogan. And I think that made me know that there are many people who know that this is right to do and that they were willing to do it, but they didn’t necessarily announce it.

MARTIN: I remember that, reading in your memoir how your organization, the YWCA, was one of the first – and some precursor organizations were among the first to have integrated meetings, and how dangerous it was for some of these women to participate.

Dr. HEIGHT: At that time there were – when we had meetings, sometimes we were talking about the klan. Sometimes we found that we were denied services that we had been promised when they realized fully what it meant that we would be women of different races. But you know, I found that were strong women in all racial groups, and I think that’s what Barack Obama has shown us. There are people in every group who know what is right and who want to move, and they just need some kind of direction and some kind of feeling that other people are with them. I remember Dr. Mayo(ph) saying, I hear people say the time isn’t right. And he said, but if it isn’t right then it’s your job to ripen the time, and that’s the way I feel about it.

12 Nov 1960, New York, New York, USA — Eleanor Roosevelt is presented the Mary McLeod Bethune Human Rights Award by Dorothy Height, President of the National Council of Negro Women. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

…MARTIN: What role do you think civil rights organizations have now?

Dr. HEIGHT: Well, there’s still a lot of unfinished business. Right now you have going across the country a whole effort to destroy affirmative action. In other words, we’re finding that people are using civil rights in a negative way, and they’re calling it, this is a civil right. In a sense, these bills that are being introduced are really anti-civil rights, and they just use the term civil right in order to fool people and make them vote.

MARTIN: Are you speaking about Ward Connerly and some of his efforts to reverse affirmative action…

Dr. HEIGHT: Yes, Connerly has gone into several states, and he has does this in a misleading way, and I think people ought to be alert to it and realize that if you vote for what he is talking about, you’re cutting back something that got started during the days of Lyndon Johnson and was a part of the whole civil rights effort. It is not a preference. It is a way of saying, those who have been denied should be given an opportunity to be sought in (ph) so they can move ahead.

In 2004 President Bush presented Dr. Dorothy Height with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

MARTIN: There are those who would argue, though, that – to be blunt about it – that Barack Obama takes these so-called excuses off the table. People look at that, and they say, look at Barack Obama in the White House. And they say, what discrimination? What could they possibly – what barriers?

Dr. HEIGHT: Yes. I think they will, but I would hope that they would also say to themselves, we need to look at who has the opportunities. We need to look at – Obama himself pointed that to us, that you can’t have a flourishing Wall Street and a destroyed Main Street. He could have also said, I’m working for the middle class, but we still have poverty. And we cannot divide up like that. We cannot say who’s hurting the most. We have to make sure they be dealing with everyone.

I have been working since my teenage days when I did an oration and won my college scholarship on the Constitution of the United States. I chose the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. And I looked and realized, here, now, at this age, I’m still working to make the 14th amendment and its promise of equal justice under law, making it real for everybody. That’s what you have to do.

MARTIN: Is there anything that you fear about an Obama presidency, about having an African-American – the first African-American in the White House?

Dr. HEIGHT: I suppose it’s not a real fear. It’s a hope that we will not take it for granted, that now we have achieved and all of our problems are answered. I think we will (unintelligible), as he did, as he said, I will be president of all the people. And by that he meant that he will work for all of us and that we all have to realize that there is unfinished business in civil rights.

It will – we don’t need the marches that we had in the past. But we need more consideration in looking at the boardroom tables and at the policies that are going on, looking at what’s happening in industry, what’s happening in terms of employment opportunities, housing and the like. So that I think it opens up a new way for us to look at our community.

And one thing, I go down now to Deep South and Mississippi and places, where during the ’60s, we moved with fear. I go down now and people are so welcoming that I forget what part of the country I’m in. And I think the people who are saying, we have no problem, have the biggest problem, that they really need to see how we can all work together and recognize that we need each other and see how we can really make this a society in which a person is judged, as Dr. Hayes(ph) said, on the basis of their character and what they do rather than on color of their skin or the language which they speak or their sexual preference, or any of those things.

MARTIN: Since you were a young woman yourself, you’ve been famous when you work with young people. Do you have any wisdom to share, perhaps, to a young Dorothy Height who might be listening to us?

Dr. HEIGHT: I like to say to young people today, you are the beneficiaries of what a lot of people worked and gave their lives for. And you are enjoying things – no matter how bad it may seen, you are still better off than any of those who worked to bring us to this point. And the important thing now is not to go it alone on your own, by yourself, but see how you will join with others. Get organized in how you will serve others and how you will help to move this forward.

And I was so excited to hear President-elect Obama, like they call him now, to hear him say that he needed our help. And I think he does. And we need it not by thinking just of what we want, but how can we help achieve the kind of roles that he has said. Because when you do that and we’re for something bigger than yourself, there’s no way you can help but grow, and that will help to prepare you for the future.

heterosis

This strikes me as complete and utter bull****.  Excuse me, bologna is more appropriate for this forum.  I just don’t see how you can conduct a scientific study based on personal opinion.  Perceived attractiveness is not a science.  I have a theory that mixed race people have an interesting look, for lack of a better way to put it.  Since we are still a relatively small group, I think there’s something in a mixed race face that may make one take note.  A gaze may linger while a mind tries to process and perhaps dissect what it’s looking at.  And that probably prompts the occasional, “What are you?”  In my opinion, that does not equal more attractive, but I see how it could be misconstrued that way.

I also object to the antiquated notion of heterosis being used in this way- heck, in any way.  Cross-breeding!?  This leads me to believe that Dr. Lewis looks at race as more than a social construct.  I seriously disagree.

Lastly, the notion that because Halle Berry, Lewis Hamilton, and Barack Obama have risen to the top of their respective fields we are to infer that mixed race people are more successful on average makes my skin crawl.  More successful than whom?  Their black counterparts?  That must be what it means because I don’t think anyone can so easily forget the 40+ white presidents, 70+ white actresses, and I don’t know exactly how many (but most likely all) of the former Formula 1 champions that preceded these super-attractive, super-successful mulattoes.  UGH!  So glad I chose not to spend a semester at Cardiff!

Mixed-race people are ‘more attractive’ and more successful, results of a new study suggest.

The Cardiff University study involved rating 1,205 black, white, and mixed-race faces.

Each face was judged on its attractiveness, with mixed-race faces generally perceived as more attractive.

Author of the study, Dr Michael Lewis, also suggested mixed-race people were disproportionately successful in many professions.

The study based its hypothesis on Darwin’s notion of heterosis, the biological phenomenon that predicts that cross-breeding leads to offspring that are genetically fitter than their parents.

Dr Lewis said the phenomenon was mirrored in the results of his study.

“The results appear to confirm that people whose genetic backgrounds are more diverse are, on average, perceived as more attractive,” Dr Lewis said.

Yet there is reason to believe that mixed-race people may not just be more attractive, but more successful.

Dr Lewis said: “There is evidence, albeit anecdotal, that the impact of heterosis goes beyond just attractiveness.

“This comes from the observation that, although mixed-race people make up a small proportion of the population, they are over-represented at the top level of a number of meritocratic professions like acting with Halle Berry, Formula 1 racing with Lewis Hamilton – and, of course, politics with Barack Obama.”

Dr Lewis will present his findings to the British Psychological Society’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

SOURCE

denying the rich history of america’s multiracial realities

these are my sentiments exactly, jason haap!  i try so hard not to judge or be offended by anyones’ choice to self-identify as they choose, but…. come on obama!!  how will we ever move forward if the most recognized living ‘mulatto’ doesn’t think it matters that he is one?  how will we eradicate the vestiges of the one-drop rule, which implies that black blood is a pollutant, and that if your drop is visible you better forget about the rest and fall in line at the back with the other tainted ready to fight the good fight?  if we can’t get rid of that idea, then how will we get to the point where we see ourselves in everyone because we are indeed all mixed up and there is no inherent opposition.  i have a feeling that we as a human race could reach untold heights if we redirected the energy that we (perhaps unconsciously) spend on categorizing/demonizing/stereotyping/judging/comparing/othering toward a more inclusive, unified system of brotherly commune. like, no fighting, no distrust, no base-less fear. what!? i don’t even know how to say what i mean. maybe there’s not a word for it. yet.

Unfortunate message to our mixed-race children

by Jason Haap, an educator, citizen media activist, and father of two multiracial children

SOURCE

The “one drop” rule is alive and well for America’s multiracial children! Last week, President Obama gathered fanfare from national media. Despite the obvious existence of his white mother, he checked just one box on his census form regarding his racial identity: “Black, African Am., or Negro.” By ignoring the option of checking multiple boxes (or of writing in a word like “multiracial”), Obama sent an unfortunate message to America’s mixed-race children.

People may have the freedom to pick racial identities individually, but Obama’s public actions as president of the United States deny the rich history of America’s multiracial realities, hearkening back to a racist period that said one drop “black” makes a person “all black.”

I remember, a few months ago, playing with my kids at the Cincinnati Children’s Museum. I heard one boy point at my oldest son and call him “that black kid.” Certainly my children are more brown-skinned than me, but they are also more fair-skinned than their mother. That’s because I have multiracial children, and I think it’s too bad their racial identities are being formed by a backward-thinking American culture before they are even old enough to notice skin color might mean something in the first place.

Despite the mythologies some of us have been raised to believe, there is nothing “stronger” about black blood. It does not “take over” a baby’s genes if one parent is black and the other white. These ideas were promulgated by racists who wanted to scare white people into thinking their genes would be obliterated by the act of intermixing with blacks. But it’s just not true. It’s bunk science and even bunkier sociology.

When the Race exhibit came to the Cincinnati Museum Center, I learned how some cultures have radically different ways of articulating race – such as in Brazil, where dozens of descriptive terms are used instead of polarizing opposites like simply “white” or simply “black.” Instead of helping move our racial understandings into the 21st century, Obama’s public actions have placed us back into the old racist thinking of the one drop rule, and that’s a shame.