i am who i am that is that

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

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

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

i am who i am

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

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

It’s How You Ask

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

Accept the Answer That You Receive

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

Expectations

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

Case-By-Case Basis

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

Learn the Difference Between Nationality and Ethnicity

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

…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?

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.32 PM #5 (compiled)

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.26 PM #5 (compiled)

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

now…

cheerios meme

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

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

Turns Out Americans Love ‘Controversial’ Cheerios Ad

Perhaps Racist YouTubers Not Representative of Country as a Whole

By: 
June 5, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WordCloudCheerios

word cloud from Ace Metrix survey comments

confessions

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

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zendaya-parents-pic-nov-22

Zendaya-Coleman-Mother

zendaya_coleman_zendaya_and_val_dwts_season_16_cast_first_look_WoVb4RGt.sized

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

nation burger month may

SadBurger

happy?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so Happy Mental Health Awareness Month to you!

I intend to explore the impact of race on mental health, both individual and collective, in a few posts this month.  And, of course, how biracial factors into it.  Or, more accurately, how it factors into biracial.  All I know right now is that it does.

May the force be with me.

To kick things off:

Lately I’ve been pondering my dis-ease in the world and have come to think that maybe it’s why (on the whole) i don’t talk to people much.  As little as possible at least.  On a personal level, anyway.  Although I genuinely enjoy people, intend to love them even…but, my default mode is to just smile at them a lot…because eventually someone is probably going to say something that makes me feel invisible with an invalid life experience,  and that throws me right into the center of the dis-ease I walk in this world carrying.  This has led me to experience anxiety and depression.  I have experienced many things in the last 36 years, don’t get me wrong.  Many things in perfect alignment with the love, beauty, and sheer wonder of the Universe.  But if i’m honest, I will acknowledge here that the dis-ease has weighed heavier.  It has been my most constant companion, so constant I was not fully aware of it.  I just thought that was life.  This has affected my relationships, my endeavors, and certainly my happiness.  That’s most likely why I cherish my experiences of joy and freedom so steadfastly that I have a (bad?) habit of clinging to the past (perhaps missing my future.)  Nostalgia and I are super-tight.  I recently bought a latch-hook Smurf wall-hanging at a flea market.  It wasn’t all that cheap.  Totally cute,  but i don’t really want it.  I saw it and for a fleeting moment a spark of pure childhood joy was ignited and i impulsively purchased that thing.  Didn’t even try to bring the price down. (smh)
photo
Clearly I digress…what I was trying to say, I think, is that depression and anxiety have been a part of my biracial experience.  That’s why i speak so fervently about freeing the mind and spirit from the confines of racial identity and racial separation and a whole bunch of other issues we needlessly toil under the illusion of.  I am passionate about this for a few reasons.  The one I’ll give now is: because it has been my “biracial” american experience and i can only be as free from the shackles of it as is the “biracial” american community in which i live.   I don’t mean a literal community of “mixed-race” people*, but the diverse community of this country.  and yes, it extends to the global community as well because basically all i’m talking about is how we’re all the same thing.

please be well

*and on the other hand, that’s exactly what i mean because i believe that we are as a country and a species quite literraly a conglomerate of mixed-race people.  Given that on this other hand we’re still pretending that race has any real relevance.  Biological or otherwise.

mental health month calendar jpg

mental health month wellness calendar

signs

I think this list is cute.

For the record numbers 6, 9, and 16 do not apply to me at all.  I’m not sure if 13, 14, or 19 do either.  Not very important, just sayin’.

But especially not #6.  That is important.

Summer 2010 021

Not awkward, and I only “don’t look like them” if you’re only looking at color.

#2 “Growing up you experienced premature existential crises over not fitting in to one specific ethnic marker” is the one that strikes me as true in a bittersweet kind of way.  I am not sure if existential crisis was used here for humorous exaggeration, but I can genuinely relate to that.  Almost literally, but I would say racial marker, but who cares, so anyway…I am not saying that I would prefer to fit into any one specific racial marker.  I would not.  I would not prefer that anyone prefer to fit into or view themselves as exclusively belonging to any one specific racial marker.  I would really, really, really prefer that no one expect anyone else to fit into any one specific ethnic marker.

Then it wouldn’t matter that I don’t fit into one, but I look like I do, but I don’t meet the expectations set by the color, I mean, assumption.  It would be irrelevant that I don’t get counted on my terms, am rarely acknowledged or seen in the way I perceive myself. Which is kind of raceless.  But kind of not because, clearly, I’m so not raceless.  I’m race-ful. Biracial is two races.  Multi-racial is however many more than that. And that shouldn’t be difficult, but it is, so I’d like to get rid of the whole thing.  If two is nearly impossible (and not really allowed if one of them is “black”), then one race can’t be very healthy either.

Oh! Wait!  We can’t forget that everyone is multiracial in some real, dna-tested kinda sense.  So basically everyone is “mixed” therefore everyone is not allowed to be who they really are.  And the system is set up so that we are unconscious to this because it’s “normal” and so we believe in the status quo and we don’t even want to know the truths underneath all of these restrictions that we accept as natural and allow to heavily influence our lives.

Switching to a lower gear… It’s also worth mentioning that any early existential crisis(es) shaped me into the person I am, and that person is pretty cool, so I’m at peace with the challenges I faced.  As futile and unnecessary as I believe them to have been.  That is why  I am not at peace with things staying the same, or thinking staying small, or identities and lives being wrapped up in artificial boxes that must be checked to maintain the political, economical and social status quo.  The status quo needs to go.  That just came out  rhyming like that, sorry.  It’s just that there’s so much time and energy being wasted in the world on the wrong things.  In my humble and guilty opinion.  I still waste and misplace all kinds of energy.

19 Signs You Are Multiracial

DEC. 2, 2012

1. People speak to you in various foreign languages you do not understand.

2. Growing up you experienced premature existential crises over not fitting in to one specific ethnic marker.

troubled thoughts

3. People often ask, “WHAT ARE YOU?”  in tones which make you feel subhuman or extraterrestrial.

4. You hesitate before filling out the “ethnic background” section of tests/ questionnaires.

5. You feel mild guilt over not identifying with one of your cultures (i.e. you hate the food).

6. You feel awkward during get-togethers with one side of the family because you look nothing like your other family members.

7. Men (or women) use your questionable ethnicity as a means to hit on you.

8. You’ve been examined like you are some rare, exotic creature.

9. You can’t understand your grandparents’ language.

10. There is an undeniable clashing of cultures whenever the two sides of your family meet.

11. Your grandparents initially disapproved of your parents’ union.

12. Similar to a “gay-dar,” you’ve developed a “multiracial-radar.”

13. You were totally eating fusion cuisine way before Kogi came into existence.

14. Playing “guess my ethnicity” is a legitimate game.

15. You’ve lied about your ethnicity in the past just for the hell of it, or to avoid conversation.

16. Your last name doesn’t really look like it belongs to you.

17. You’ve been criticized for not being [insert ethnicity here] enough, or speaking [insert language here] well enough.

18. People you meet over the phone are surprised when they meet you in person.

19. You identify as a person of color, you just don’t know which.

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.

joneses

Disclaimer: I’m having one of those crazy stressful work weeks which during which i can only steal about five minutes to blog, so things are pretty sparse around here.

Luckily for me people have been finding there way to the blog by searching the web for Rashida Jones and/or Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton.  I’ve been sitting on this photo for a few days, and figure all signs point to “it’s time to post it” even though I don’t have much to go with it.

I simply love the photograph.

The article below is brief, yet relevant.

The article below that I have posted before, but think the interview is brilliant enough to repost

kenya, rahida, kidada, q

Kenya, Quincy, Rashida, and Kidada Jones

Rashida Jones on Being Biracial: “I Have No Issues With My Identity”

The actress talks about the challenges of finding her place in Hollywood.

By Evelyn Diaz
Posted: 07/10/2012
The actress and screenwriter, whose film Celeste and Jesse Forever is due in theaters next month, opens up to EurWeb.com about being biracial in Hollywood (she’s Black and Jewish).

“It’s more of a challenge for other people than it is for me,” she says. “I have no issues with my identity.”

The daughter of media mogul Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton does admit that her Hollywood handlers had trouble categorizing her at first. “Other people think I should be settling into one thing or another, but I don’t want to be limited,” she says.

“I spent so much time when I was younger being limited,” she goes on. “I wasn’t dark enough for some parts, or I was too light, or I wasn’t quirky enough.”

Now, the 36-year-old Harvard grad is one of the most promising talents in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. After a breakthrough role in I Love You, Man, she landed a part in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation and created the comic book series Frenemy of the State, which is currently being adapted for the big screen with her as the star.

Jones was also nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award for Influential Multiracial Public Figure.

Rashida Jones’ Sister Kidada Agrees “She Passed For White” But Did The Mean Girls At Harvard Scare Her Away From Dating Black Men Forever?

jones-sisters

RASHIDA: I wouldn’t trade my family for anything. My mother shocked her Jewish parents by marrying out of her religion and race. And my father: growing up poor and black, buckling the odds and becoming so successful, having the attitude of “I love this woman! We’re going to have babies and to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it!”

KIDADA: We had a sweet, encapsulated family. We were our own little world. But there’s the warmth of love inside a family, and then there’s the outside world. When I was born in 1974, there were almost no other biracial families–or black families–in our neighborhood. I was brown-skinned with short, curly hair. Mommy would take me out in my stroller and people would say, “What a beautiful baby…whose is it?” Rashida came along in 1976. She had straight hair and lighter skin. My eyes were brown; hers were green. IN preschool, our mother enrolled us in the Buckley School, an exclusive private school. It was almost all white.

RASHIDA: In reaction to all that differentess, Kidada tried hard to define herself as a unique person by becoming a real tomboy.

KIDADA: While Rashida wore girly dresses, I loved my Mr. T dolls and my Jaws T-shirt. But seeing the straight hair like the other girls had, like my sister had…I felt: “It’s not fair! I want that hair!”

PEGGY: I was the besotted mother of two beautiful daughters I’d had with the man I loved–I saw Kidada through those eyes. I thought she had the most gorgeous hair–those curly, curly ringlets. I still think so!

KIDADA: One day a little blond classmate just out and called me “Chocolate bar.” I shot back: “Vanilla!”

QUINCY: I felt deeply for Kidada; I thought racism would be over by the eighties. My role was to put things in perspective for her, project optimism, imply that things were better than they’d been for me growing up on the south side of Chicago in the 1930s.

KIDADA: I had another hurdle as a kid: I was dyslexic. I was held back in second grade. I flunked algebra three times. The hair, the skin, the frustration with schoolwork: It was all part of the shake. I was a strong-willed, quirky child–mischievous.

RASHIDA: Kidada was cool. I was a dork. I had a serious case of worship for my big sister. She was so strong, so popular, so rebellious. Here’s the difference in our charisma: When I was 8 and Kidada was 10, we tried to get invited into the audience of our favorite TV shows. Mine was Not Necessarily the News, a mock news show, and hers was Punky Brewster, about a spunky orphan. I went by the book, writing a fan letter–and I got back a form letter. Kidada called the show, used her charm, wouldn’t take no for an answer. Within a week she was invited to the set!

KIDADA: I was kicked out of Buckley in second grade for behavior problems. I didn’t want my mother to come to my new school. If kids saw her, it would be: “your mom’s white!” I told Mom she couldn’t pick me up; she had to wait down the street in her car. Did Rashida have that problem? No! She passed for white.

RASHIDA: “Passed”?! I had no control over how I looked. This is my natural hair, these are my natural eyes! I’ve never tried to be anything that I’m not. Today I feel guilty, knowing that because of the way our genes tumbled out, Kidada had to go through pain I didn’t have to endure. Loving her so much, I’m sad that I’ll never share that experience with her.

KIDADA: Let me make this clear: My feelings about my looks were never “in comparison to” Rashida. It was the white girls in class that I compared myself to. Racial issues didn’t exist at home. Our parents weren’t black and white; they were Mommy and Daddy.

RASHIDA: But it was different with our grandparents. Our dad’s father died before we were born. We didn’t see our dad’s mother often. I felt comfortable with Mommy’s parents, who’d come to love my dad like a son. Kidada wasn’t so comfortable with them. I felt Jewish; Kidada didn’t.

KIDADA: I knew Mommy’s parents were upset at first when she married a black man, and though they did the best they could, I picked up on what I thought was their subtle disapproval of me. Mommy says they loved me, but I felt estranged from them.

While Rashida stayed and excelled at Buckley, Kidada bumped from school to school; she got expelled from 10 in all because of behavior problems, which turned out to be related to her dyslexia.

KIDADA: We had a nanny, Anna, from El Salvador. I couldn’t get away with stuff with her. Mommy knew Anna could give her the backup she needed in the discipline department because she was my color. Anna was my “ethnic mama.”

PEGGY: Kidada never wanted to be white. She spoke with a little…twist in her language. She had ‘tude. Rashida spoke more primly, and her identity touched all bases. She’d announce, “I’m going to be the first female, black, Jewish president of the U.S.!”

KIDADA: When I was 11, a white girlfriend and I were going to meet up with these boys she knew. I’d told her, because I wanted to be accepted, “Tell them I’m tan.” When we met them, the one she was setting me up with said, “You didn’t tell me she was black.” That’s When I started defining myself as black, period. Why fight it? Everyone wanted to put me in a box. On passports, at doctor’s offices, when I changed schools, there were boxes to check: Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian. I don’t mean any dishonor to my mother–who is the most wonderful mother in the world, and we are so alike–but: I am black. Rashida answers questions about “what” she is differently. She uses all the adjectives: black, white, Jewish.

RASHIDA: Yes, I do. And I get: “But you look so white!” “You’re not black!” I want to say: “Do you know how hurtful that is to somebody who identifies so strongly with half of who she is?” Still, that’s not as bad as when people don’t know. A year ago a taxi driver said to me, That Jennifer Lopez is a beautiful woman. Thank God she left that disgusting black man, Puffy.” I said, “I’m black.” He tried to smooth it over. IF you’re obviously black, white people watch their tongues, but with me they think they can say anything. When people don’t know “what” you are, you get your heart broken daily.

KIDADA: Rashida has it harder than I do: She can feel rejection from both parties.

RASHIDA: When I audition for white roles, I’m told I’m “too exotic.” When I go up for black roles, I’m told I’m “too light.” I’ve lost a lot of jobs, looking the way I do.

PEGGY: As Kidada grew older, it became clear that she wouldn’t be comfortable unless she was around kids who looked more like her. So I searched for a private school that had a good proportion of black students, and when she was 12, I found one.

KIDADA: That changed everything. I’d go to my black girlfriends’ houses and–I wanted their life! I lived in a gated house in a gated neighborhood, where playdates were: “My security will call your security.” Going to my black friends’ houses, I saw a world that was warm and real, where families sat down for dinner together. At our house, Rashida and I often ate dinner on trays, watching TV in Anna’s room, because our dada was composing and performing at night and Mom sat in on his sessions.

RASHIDA: But any family, from any background, can have that coziness too.

KIDADA: I’m sure that’s true, but I experienced all that heart and soul in black families. I started putting pressure on Mommy to let me go to a mostly black public school. I was on her and on her and on her. I wouldn’t let up until she said yes.

PEGGY: So one day when Kidada was 14, we drove to Fairfax High, where I gave a fake address and enrolled her.

KIDADA: All those kids! A deejay in the quad at lunch! Bus passes! All those cute black boys; no offense, but I thought white boys were boring. I fit in right away; the kids had my outgoing vibe. My skin and hair had been inconveniences at my other schools–I could never get those Madonna spiked bangs that all the white girls were wearing–but my girlfriends at Fairfax thought my skin was beautiful, and they loved to put their hands in my hair and braid it. The kids knew who my dad was an my stock went up. I felt secure. I was home.

RASHIDA: Our parents divorced when I was 10; Kidada went to live with Dad in his new house in Bel Air, and I moved with Mom to a house in Brentwood. Mom was very depressed after the divorce, and I made it my business to keep her company.

KIDADA: I wanted to live with Dad not because he was the black parent, but because he traveled. I could get away with more.

RASHIDA: At this time, anyone looking at Kidada and me would have seen two very different girls. I wore my navy blue jumper and crisp white blouse; K wore baggy Adidas sweatsuits and door-knocker earrings. My life was school, school, school. I’m with Bill Cosby: It’s every bit as black as it is white to be a nerd with a book in your hand.

KIDADA: The fact that Rashida was good at school while I was dyslexic intimidated me and pushed me more into my defiant role. I was ditching classes and going to clubs.

RASHIDA: About this time, Kidada was replacing me with younger girls from Fairfax who she could lead and be friends with.

KIDADA: They were my little sisters, as far as I was concerned.

RASHIDA: When I’d go to our dad’s house on weekends, eager to see Kidada, the new “little sisters” would be there. She’d be dressing them up like dolls. It hurt! I was jealous!

KIDADA: You felt that? I always thought you’d rejected me.

RASHIDA: Still, our love for the same music–Prince, Bobby Brown, Bell Biv DeVoe–would bring us together on weekends.
Read more at http://bossip.com/623483/rashida-jones-sister-kidada-agrees-she-passed-for-white-but-did-the-mean-girls-at-harvard-scare-her-away-from-dating-black-men-forever/#tGvOXe6QHreb2M0W.99

 

The Race Project continued

When I said mildly obsessed I wasn’t exaggerating.  I find these Race Cards to be moving and powerful and unsettling and inspiring.  Michael Bolton (not that Michael Bolton) and Bill Rowe, you really got to me. What a genius project.  It is a brilliant way of taking the racial temperature of an America with a huge population of “Millennials” who think in 160 character blurbs and who we hope are the “raceless” generation.  Of course we Gen X-ers and the Boomers, and even the Builders have Millennial tendencies, so no one should feel excluded from this.  This isn’t for Generation Y, but when you’re taking the racial pulse at The University of Michigan, you will get a sense of how to close to “raceless” our youngest adults are.

 
make-your-race-card2

Click HERE to submit your own Race Card.  I’d love to hear which 6 words you chose, so please leave it in the comment section below if you feel inclined to share.  I’m crafting one myself.  Right now I’ve got:

  • Believing in race ensures potential’s waste
  • Race is a mask, lie, excuse
  • Race brings judgement made in haste
  • Race causes unnecessary confusion of spirit

I think I like the last one best.  I think the ones the rhyme are cheesy.  I think the word race probably doesn’t have to be in it, so I need to start thinking outside of the box I’m currently stuck in on this one.

Here are a few of the ones that intrigued me most.  Of course, I was drawn to the “interracial” ones for obvi reasons.  There are so many intriguing entries to dig through on the Race Card Project website.

We are treated how we look.

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Kimberly Dorsey

Detroit, MI

I am bi-racial and have been raised in a white family inside Detroit. I have suffered many racially motivated injustices in my travels and it makes me angry when people pretend race doesn’t matter. It matters when you are the one being discriminated against.

Yes, they are my REAL kids

Paul David Binkley
Delaware, OH

My wife of twenty two years and I are interracially married, she black and myself white.

Over our years together we have dealt with countless thoughtless comments and questions.

Here is one such event recalled here to explain my six word story.

A few years back, when our youngest still fit in a grocery cart, I was shopping alone with the three of them, engrossed in a price comparison, when an older woman approached and asked bluntly, “are those your kids?”

Wincing, I glanced over at them. My oldest daughter was tracing the colorful letters of a cereal box with her finger. My son was standing with his binkly in his mouth and fingers of one hand gripping the cart. And my baby girl was just sitting there quiet, not even remotely misbehaving.

Reconsidering her question. “Are those your kids,” I realized its true nature. Thinking myself clever, I answered, “Would I bring them to the grocery store if they weren’t?”

To which she humorlessly rejoindered, “No. I mean are they your REAL kids?”

Too desensitized to be deeply offended, I gritted my teeth and answered plainly, “Yes, they are my REAL kids.”

How to protect my black son?

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Michael Bolton
Scottsdale, AZ
Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan

Dad Caucasian. lived life in black neighborhood mostly. studied black history–college+leisure. love black culture esp music, classic jazz. slave narratives. am black myself but cannot pass as such. other dad, my partner, black, died. am now single dad, not planned. bringing up son in white priviledged neighborhood. not me, not him, we’re poor, but we’re here. avoiding ‘young black males’=main cause of death for ‘young black males’. life so cheap for ‘young black males’. not *my* son. i miss diversity.

Slide2

With blacks come crime and decay.

Bunny Vee
Philadelphia, PA

Called my friend nigger. Ashamed forever.

Bill Rowe
Bucks County, PA

It was 1971 and I was ashamed the moment I said it. Jeff was a friend and to impress the wrong person I said something terrible. What impresses me to this day is the way that he responded. He just said “you don’t mean that” and never said another word. If I read the situation correctly, Jeff forgave the unforgivable. I have never been able to forgive my behavior and I am ashamed to this day of what I did. I moved to another school the following year and we lost contact. I never apologized and wish that I could.
Jeff, wherever you are, I have two 6 word sentences for you. You are the epitome of grace. I’m sorry beyond power of words.

Slide7

i do not intend to be quiet about it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While perusing Facebook the other day, I came upon a post that really excited me.  About Albert Einstein. Yeah…(nerd.)

I really admire the Einstein, thus was a bit shocked by my ignorance of his strong stance on this issue.  It’s like my strong stance.  How did I miss this?  Naturally, I dug through the interweb to see what else I could find to feed my curiosity.  I found a feast! There will be more on this topic tomorrow I believe.

I’m pleased to report that I have since forgiven myself for my ignorance, as it became clear that this hasn’t been common Einstein knowledge.  It was insignificant, irrelevant, and even egregious for the times.  Who would record such nonsense? Of course equality and human dignity were reserved for whites. No questions allowed.  But Einstein spoke anyway.  Imagine, being afraid of speaking in public, yet being courageous enough to speak publicly on a topic so taboo that he could have literally found himself in danger- political, financial, and physical. That is fierce.  That is being action in alignment with cosmic law.  That is something I truly admire.

Here’s the catalytic FB post:

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Einstein, when he arrived in America, was shocked at how Black Americans were treated. “There is separation of colored people from white people in the United States,” he said. “That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. And, I do not intend to be quiet about it.” And, he wasn’t.

Although he had a fear of speaking in public, he made all the effort he could to spread the word of equality, denouncing racism and segregation and becoming a huge proponent of civil rights even before the term became fashionable. Einstein was a member of several civil rights groups (including the Princeton chapter of the NAACP).

 

There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery.  The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

 —Albert Einstein “The Negro Question”, 1946

 

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Albert Einstein, Civil Rights activist

Little-known aspect of physicist’s life revealed

By Ken Gewertz

Harvard News Office

 

Here’s something you probably don’t know about Albert Einstein.

In 1946, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist traveled to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall and the first school in America to grant college degrees to blacks. At Lincoln, Einstein gave a speech in which he called racism “a disease of white people,” and added, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.” He also received an honorary degree and gave a lecture on relativity to Lincoln students.

The reason Einstein’s visit to Lincoln is not better known is that it was virtually ignored by the mainstream press, which regularly covered Einstein’s speeches and activities. (Only the black press gave extensive coverage to the event.) Nor is there mention of the Lincoln visit in any of the major Einstein biographies or archives.

In fact, many significant details are missing from the numerous studies of Einstein’s life and work, most of them having to do with Einstein’s opposition to racism and his relationships with African Americans.

That these omissions need to be recognized and corrected is the contention of Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, authors of “Einstein on Race and Racism” (Rutgers University Press, 2006). Jerome and Taylor spoke April 3 at an event sponsored by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. The event also featured remarks by Sylvester James Gates Jr., the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, University of Maryland.

According to Jerome and Taylor, Einstein’s statements at Lincoln were by no means an isolated case. Einstein, who was Jewish, was sensitized to racism by the years of Nazi-inspired threats and harassment he suffered during his tenure at the University of Berlin. Einstein was in the United States when the Nazis came to power in 1933, and, fearful that a return to Germany would place him in mortal danger, he decided to stay, accepting a position at the recently founded Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. He became an American citizen in 1940.

But while Einstein may have been grateful to have found a safe haven, his gratitude did not prevent him from criticizing the ethical shortcomings of his new home.

“Einstein realized that African Americans in Princeton were treated like Jews in Germany,” said Taylor. “The town was strictly segregated. There was no high school that blacks could go to until the 1940s.”

Gates, an African-American physicist who has appeared on the PBS show Nova, said that Einstein had been a hero of his since he learned about the theory of relativity as a teenager, but that he was unaware of Einstein’s ideas on civil rights until fairly recently.

Einstein’s approach to problems in physics was to begin by asking very simple, almost childlike questions, such as, “What would the world look like if I could drive along a beam of light?” Gates said.

“He must have developed his ideas about race through a similar process. He was capable of asking the question, ‘What would my life be like if I were black?’”

Gates said that thinking about Einstein’s involvement with civil rights has prompted him to speculate on the value of affirmative action and the goal of diversity it seeks to bring about. There are many instances in which the presence of strength and resilience in a system can be attributed to diversity.

“In the natural world, for example, when a population is under the influence of a stressful environment, diversity ensures its survival,” Gates said.

On a cultural level, the global influence of American popular music might be attributed to the fact that it is an amalgam of musical traditions from Europe and Africa.

These examples have led him to conclude that “diversity actually matters, independent of the moral argument.” Gates said he believes “there is a science of diversity out there waiting for scholars to discover it.”

entire article

—It’s Tiff again.  I just have to comment about that last excerpt from Gates. That “under the influence of a stressful environment, diversity ensures survival” thing.  In this case the stressful environment is racially segregated America.  The mutually exclusive, dangerously juxtaposed, white vs. black America.  To ensure survival, diversity is required.  I’ll go out on a limb here and relate this to being mixed like me (after all, these are the mulatto diaries if I recall correctly.) To ensure the survival of America, we have to exist.  We are everywhere even though we’ve been largely silent and unrecognized in any genuine manner.  Yet things improve, and change happens as we wake up, and adapt, and we are different…and so is America.

The interaction between organism and environment is central in evolution. Extinction ensues when organisms fail to change and adapt to the constantly altering … stressful environmental changes as documented in the fossil record. Extreme environmental stress causes extinction but also leads to evolutionary change and the origination of new species adapted to new environments.”-Eviatar Nevo

Don’t become extinct!