50 years of licit cohabition

I want to share two articles published for Loving Day.  Not just any Loving Day, but the 50th Anniversary of the legalization of interracial marriage nationwide Loving Day. Yay!  A lot has changed in 50 years.  And so much has not.  I think these two articles together embody that sentiment perfectly.  Sometimes it takes more than one thing 🙂

crystal bellieve in love

The NPR post has actual audio (short and worth hearing) from the Loving v. Virginia trial and gives more details about the arguments in the case than I’ve ever encountered.  The New York Times Opinion Editorial shares short stories from current day interracial couples.  Find excerpts from both below.  Please click the links for full articles.

While “Illicit Cohabitation” is a great pull into the NPR mixed-media piece, the line from the trial that I find most fascinating is the one about psychological evils. The pro anti-miscegenation law argument that “these statutes serve a legitimate, legislative objective of preventing sociological, psychological evils which attend interracial marriages” really got my attention.  I wish I could say the statement is entirely unfounded.  But that is not true.  The statement is true, as is what he said next:  “Intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems than those of the intra-married and that the state’s prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry.”  Ok, he totally lost me with polygamous and incestuous and statutory, but what came before that?  That is as true today as it was 50 years ago. And with everything that’s going on around here these days, there is no denying that.  That’s just the way it is right now.  What I hope we will all do is realize it wasn’t the marriages that needed banning, it was the society who’s psychology told it that there was a hierarchy to maintain and a gulf so wide as to never fathom crossing it.  And I hope we will see where the vestiges of those beliefs and laws still live in us and in our communities and that we will speak up for what is right and just and true. There is a lot of unraveling to be done. It shouldn’t have been so hard.

society is gross

 

It shouldn’t be so hard still.  The New York Times gathered stories that are current and honest.  I’ll be honest and admit that I only read the black and white couples because, while I’m being honest, Anti-miscegenation laws were primarily put in place to prohibit black people from marrying white people.  In order to preserve the master race.  And to prevent tragic offspring like me from upsetting the system with our all-encompassing, theory-disproving, potentially-unifying selves by just, you know, existing. But, I digress-

I think this can all be summed up with this quote from Jennifer, a white woman married to black man since 2001:  “I have learned that not only is “driving while black” a real thing, but also that riding with a black male will get you pulled over. I’ve learned to ignore disapproving looks from older white people in public places…I’ve learned that most people are tolerant, but that is different from being accepting. While we may have come a long way from the days of the Lovings, there is still a long way to go.”

To all the interracial couples before the Lovings and after the Lovings,

Thank you for your courage in the name of love while facing intense discrimination, judgement, adversity, and alienation.  Important steps toward waking us up out of the illusion of race.

thank you crystals

 

‘Illicit Cohabitation’: Listen To 6 Stunning Moments From Loving V. Virginia

mildred-loving-2-800

“Illicit cohabitation.”

“Psychological evils.”

“Racial integrity.”

It’s difficult to imagine how much the country’s language around race and interracial marriage has changed in the past half century.

But just 50 years ago, interracial marriage was prohibited in Virginia and 15 other states.

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia declared unconstitutional a Virginia law prohibiting mixed-race marriage. The ruling also legalized interracial marriage in every state.

Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop, two young ACLU lawyers at the time, took the case of the Lovings — a black and Native American woman named Mildred and Richard Loving, her white husband — all the way to the high court.

Listen to six standout moments from the trial below, transcribed by the Supreme Court in 1967:

1. Cohen and Hirschkop asked the court to look closely at whether the Virginia law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. If the framers had intended to exclude anti-miscegenation status in the 14th Amendment, which assures equal protection under the law, they argued that it would have been easy for them to write a phrase excluding interracial marriage, but they didn’t Cohen argued:

“Equal protection for Negroes”

“The language was broad, the language was sweeping. The language meant to include equal protection for Negroes that was at the very heart of it and that equal protection included the right to marry as any other human being had the right to marry subject to only the same limitations.”

 

Loving, 50 Years Later

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court decision that invalidated state laws restricting interracial marriage. Recently, we asked readers to share their experiences about being in a mixed-race relationship. We received more than 2,000 stories in just a few days.

Many people expressed profound ambivalence about the categories that drove antimiscegenation rules, while they described how their racial identity — or how others identified them — continued to shape their relationships and their social interactions. Some wrote about the resistance they faced from family and society, while others celebrated the particular richness of their lives. Here are some of those stories.

BARB AND MATT ROOSE

Married: Medina, Ohio, July 18, 1992

‘Luckily we were young, bullheaded and foolish.’

BARB: I’m African-American and my husband is Caucasian. We married when we were 19 and 20 years old and we’ll celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year. We love that we get to celebrate such a milestone as the Supreme Court verdict celebrates a milestone too.

After we got engaged (which was mainly because I was pregnant) my then-boyfriend was asked by one of his family members: “Do you really love her or are you just trying to tick your parents off?”

We learned quickly that we couldn’t answer all of the questions that our families had. Luckily we were young, bullheaded and foolish, so we decided not to let other people’s issues with our marriage become our own. We had to focus on us. This meant that my husband had to sacrifice some of his relationships for a short season in order to marry me. Thankfully, they have since reconciled.

We made it a priority to make sure that our kids had friends of all races. Early on in our lives, we hung out with another biracial couple that looked like us, so that our kids saw black moms and white dads as normal.

As a couple, we learned to be upfront with each other about race. It didn’t start that way. Attraction led to confusion. Our life experience and cultural filters created a need for us to learn each other’s ways. Like, letting him, when he was my boyfriend, into my dorm room while I was relaxing my hair. I had to let him see me being fully me. Another time when my father-in-law and I went to a country music concert with his favorite artist — that was culture shock! But, it was the music of my husband’s experience and it helped me learn more about the people in my family.

It’s taken a long time to learn this, but we believe that our relationship is more important than one of us being right. We don’t want race to ever become a wall that divides us.

the child was exhibited yesterday

in my search for vintage images of mulatto folks i recently stumbled upon a gem!!   Joan P. Gage is a journalist and a collector of photographs.  on her blog A Rolling Crone she shares one of her collectibles and the fascinating (and still unfolding) story behind it.  i feel all kinds of ways about this piece of our history (and by “our” i do mean mulatto, i do mean american, i do mean human seeing as everything is everything and all.)  anyway, i feel sad for the little girl.  i feel pride for the little girl.  i feel a sense of satisfaction that i can point to this child and to the efforts charles sumner as evidence that, even way back when, a white man and a white-looking black child attempted to change people’s minds (way back)when it would have been much easier (not to mention safer!) to relish in the societal refuge that their phenotype offered.  i am not implying that the attempt was perfect, nor that there is nothing offensive or off-color about the sentiment behind the message.  but, if you consider the general consensus of the times on this matter, i think it safe to view sumner’s cause as a benevolent one.  i wonder how little mary felt.  i wonder if she understood.  i wonder what her parents looked like.  and her siblings.  i assume there’s a reason that they were not photographed or ‘exhibited’ together.  and i wonder how they felt about that, about all of it.  and what became of all of them…

From a New York Times article dated March 9, 1855, which read:
A WHITE SLAVE FROM VIRGINIA. We received a visit yesterday from an interesting little girl, — who, less than a month since, was a slave belonging to Judge NEAL, of Alexandria, Va. Our readers will remember that we lately published a letter, addressed by Hon. CHARLES SUMNER, to some friends in Boston, accompanying a daguerreotype which that gentleman had forwarded to his friends in this city, and which he described as the portrait of a real “Ida May,” — a young female slave, so white as to defy the acutest judge to detect in her features, complexion, hair, or general appearance, the slightest trace of Negro blood. It was this child that visited our office, accompanied by CHARLES H. BRAINARD, in whose care she was placed by Mr. SUMNER, for transmission to Boston. Her history is briefly as follows: Her name is MARY MILDRED BOTTS; her father escaped from the estate of Judge NEAL, Alexandria, six years ago and took refuge in Boston. Two years since he purchased his freedom for $600, his wife and three children being still in bondage. The good feeling of his Boston friends induced them to subscribe for the purchase of his family, and three weeks since, through the agency of Hon. CHARLES SUMNER, the purchase was effected, $800 being paid for the family. They created quite a sensation in Washington, and were provided with a passage in the first class cars in their journey to this city, whence they took their way last evening by the Fall River route to Boston. The child was exhibited yesterday to many prominent individuals in the City, and the general sentiment, in which we fully concur, was one of astonishment that she should ever have been held a slave. She was one of the fairest and most indisputable white children that we have ever seen.

From “Raising Freedom’s Child—Black Children and Visions of the Future after Slavery,” written by a University of New Orleans professor, Mary Niall Mitchell:

By the eve of the Civil War, abolitionists recognized the potential of white-looking children for stirring up antislavery sentiment…Although it was the image of a raggedy, motherless Topsy that viewers might have expected to see in a photograph of a slave girl, it was the “innocent”, “pure,” and “well-loved” white child who appeared, a child who needed the protection of the northern white public.
“Topsy”
George Thomson’s Woodcut Illustrations
1888

The sponsors of seven-year-old Mary Mildred Botts, a freed child from Virginia, may have been the first to capitalize on these ideas, as early as 1855. Her story also marks the beginning of efforts to use photography (in Mary Botts’s case, the daguerreotype, as the carte-de-visite format was not yet available) in the service of raising sentiment and support for the abolitionist cause.”
“…In his own characterization of Mary Botts,” Mitchell continues, “Sumner set a pattern that other abolitionists would follow.  In a letter printed in both the Boston Telegraph and the New York Daily Times, he compared Mary Botts to a fictional white girl who had been kidnapped and enslaved, the protagonist in Mary Hayden Pike’s antislavery novel Ida May:  ‘She is bright and intelligent—another Ida May,’ [Sumner wrote] ‘I think her presence among us (in Boston) will be more effective than any speech I can make.’”

From joanpgage, the blogger (and current owner of the daguerrotype) from which I am re-blogging this piece:

Only a year after parading Mary Botts through New York, Boston and Worcester and dubbing her “The real Ida May”,  Charles Sumner’s devout abolitionist views  led him to a crippling disaster, when, in 1856, he was so badly beaten on the floor of the Senate by South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks,  who broke a cane over his head, that it would take years of therapy before Sumner could return to the Senate.

…Prof. Mitchell is currently working on a book about Mary Botts that will tell more about this former slave’s life, including the drama of how Sumner purchased her and spirited her out of Virginia, how he introduced her to the media and society as a  living advocate for the abolitionist cause, and how her family settled in the free black community in Boston.

I’m eager to learn the rest of the story, but, for now, it’s enough of a thrill just to know that the daguerreotype, taken in 1855, that is part of my collection may represent one of the first efforts EVER to use the modern discovery of photography to touch people’s emotions and change their minds.  This small image of a seven-year-old girl may be an example of the first time photography was used for propaganda, but it was certainly not the last.

 

 

 


speaking of drake…

I’m super-curious about this guy and am itching to know more about the experiential intricacies of his Black/Jewish upbringing, and how he reflects on all of that from where he sits currently as the “New Jew in Hip-Hop.”  I don’t think this is a direct quote from Drake, but it rings true:  “Finally, his outsider background has become an asset.”  That’s exactly how I feel about my own self and I wouldn’t be surprised if a multitude of biracials are emerging into the same space of appreciation for the experience and are cultivating ways to make use of it in a world that was not ready to handle our truth before.  Some still aren’t ready.  Look out, some!

The New Face of Hip-Hop

By JON CARAMANICA

New York Times

For most of his teenage years Drake, tall, broad and handsome, was still known as Aubrey Graham (Drake is his middle name) and played the basketball star Jimmy Brooks on the popular Canadian teenage drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” In the last 18 months, though, he’s become the most important and innovative new figure in hip-hop, and an unlikely one at that. Biracial Jewish-Canadian former child actors don’t have a track record of success in the American rap industry.

But when “Thank Me Later” (Aspire/Young Money/Cash Money) is released this week, it will cement Drake’s place among hip-hop’s elite. It’s a moody, entrancing and emotionally articulate album that shows off Drake’s depth as a rapper, a singer and a songwriter, without sacrificing accessibility. That he does all those things well marks him as an adept student of the last 15 years: there’s Jay-Z’s attention to detail, Kanye West’s gift for melody, Lil Wayne’s street-wise pop savvy.

In rapid fashion Drake has become part of hip-hop’s DNA, leapfrogging any number of more established rappers. “I’m where I truly deserve to be,” Drake said over quesadillas at the hotel’s lobby bar. “I believe in myself, in my presence, enough that I don’t feel small in Jay’s presence. I don’t feel small in Wayne’s presence.”

But “Thank Me Later” is fluent enough in hip-hop’s traditions deftly to abandon them altogether in places. Finally his outsider background has become an asset. As a rapper, Drake manages to balance vulnerability and arrogance in equal measure, a rare feat. He also sings — not with technological assistance, as other rappers do, but expertly.

Then there’s his subject matter: not violence or drugs or street-corner bravado. Instead emotions are what fuel Drake, 23, who has an almost pathological gift for connection. Great eye contact. Easy smile. Evident intelligence. Quick to ask questions. “He’s a kid that can really work the room, whatever the room,” said his mother, Sandi Graham. “Thank Me Later” has its share of bluster, but is more notable for its regret, its ache.

As for Ms. Berry’s cousin, Drake’s interested, of course, but wary. “I think I have to live this life for a little bit longer before I even know what love is in this atmosphere,” he said. More fame only means less feeling, he knows.

Dodging vulnerability has been a fact of Drake’s life since childhood. His parents split when he was 3. An only child, he lived with his mother, who soon began battling rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that eventually prevented her from working, forcing Drake to become responsible at a young age. “We would have this little drill where, Lord forbid something happened, if there was a fire or an emergency, he would have to run outside and get a neighbor and call 911,” Ms. Graham said. His father, Dennis, who is black, was an intermittent presence — sometimes struggling with drugs, sometimes in jail.

“One thing I wasn’t was sheltered from the pains of adulthood,” Drake said. When something upset him as a teenager, he often told himself: “That’s just the right now. I can change that. I can change anything. The hand that was dealt doesn’t exist to me.’ ”

From an early age he’d been interested in performing, whether rewriting the lyrics to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or spending time as a child model. By then, he and his mother were living in Forest Hill, a well-to-do, heavily Jewish neighborhood on the north side of Toronto, where he attended local schools, often the only black student in sight. His mother is white and Jewish, and Drake had a bar mitzvah. At school he struggled academically and socially. “Character-building moments, but not great memories,” he recalled. In eighth grade he got an agent and was soon sent off to audition for “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” an updated version of the popular 1980s Canadian drama.

He auditioned after school, on the same day, he said, that he first smoked pot from a bong. Nevertheless he landed the role of the wealthy, well-liked basketball star Jimmy Brooks, who was originally conceived as a white football player.

“Part of his journey is trying to figure where he does fit in in the world, having a white Jewish mom and a black, often absentee father,” said Linda Schuyler, a creator of the show. “It’s almost a comfort factor with Jimmy Brooks. That was the antithesis of his life at the time. It was probably reassuring and a bit escapist for him to play that role.”

Sometimes he was hiding even when the cameras were off, sleeping on the show’s set. “When I woke up in the morning, I was still the guy that could act and laugh,” he said. “It’s just that home was overwhelming.” Along with “Degrassi” came a new, more diverse school closer to the set, where he first tried rapping in public. As he got older, he also tried out his verses on one of his father’s jailhouse friends, who listened over the phone…

READ MORE

richard dereef

I wanted to know more about this “colored slave owner” after reading that small bit about him in the gullah tour article.  There is more information out there than I’d expected.  I wish I could see a photograph of his Caucasian and Indian (American) parents.  The New York Times article truly fascinates me.  First of all, I’d love to know who wrote it!  Secondly, it’s nice to hear (although there’s nothing nice about the sick and twisted system) that there were legitimate and acknowledged mulatto children.  But that nice feeling quickly disappeared when I searched for more information on Isabella.  I’ll include that in a separate post.

[Richard DeReef]

Richard Edward DeReef was one of the richest black men in Charleston. He had a Wharf at the end of Chapel Street, was in the “woodage business” (wood), and owned rental properties, most of which are located on the East side of Charleston. Because of his dark complexion he would have never been accepted into Charleston’s elite mulatto society but he claimed to be of Indian descent, and he had money.

IMAGE: ON RIGHT — Richard Edward Dereef (1798-1876), a free black wood factor and real estate investor, built this small two story frame single house sometime after he purchased the site in April, 1838. The site was part of a large lot, extending to Calhoun Street, on which Dereef erected several buildings, of which only this house remains. Dereef, a native Charlestonian, was one of the wealthiest men of the free black community. He and his son, Richard, Jr., had a wood factorage business on Dereef’s Wharf at the foot of Chapel Street, and lived nearby on Washington street. By 1867 Dereef had conveyed this property, apparently built for rental purposes, to Margaret Walker, a black woman.
(Stockton, unpub. MS.) SOURCE

COLORED SLAVE OWNERS.; One Family of Mixed Blood in Charleston Owned Forty Negro Servants.

May 26, 1907, Sunday

To the Editor of the New York Times:

Truth is stranger than fiction, and had not the information of the ownership of slaves by colored citizens of Charleston, and elsewhere, been sent forth by such an authority as The News and Courier, the statement would have been regarded as incredible. But The News and Courier has not stated nearly all the truth which is, according to your confession, surprising to you, and, according to your belief, surprising to many others in the North.

The prevalent views, State documents, Congressional debates, and lecture courses bearing upon the general subject render it difficult of belief that the proclamation of emancipation by Mr. Lincoln reduced many colored people of the South, and especially in the City of Charleston, from a state of affluence and competence to a condition of need, if not of poverty.

But such was the case.

Those slave owners were not called “negroes,” but “colored people,” as they were generally of mixed blood- sometimes of Caucasian and African; sometimes of Caucasian and Indian; (American.)  Many of the colored people of Charleston had no African blood whatever.  The question you ask, and The News and Courier failed to answer, is:  How did those people come into possession of their slaves- by inheritance, gift, or purchase?  The answer is, By all these ways.  They were generally the children of rich planters who, in the early days of the coast settlements, established themselves in lower South Carolina, with Charleston as the centre of operation.  These children were regarded as such, and not as illegitimate of slaves.  They bore the name of the father with recognition and as by right.  They were also educated.

Upon the death of the father these children would come, by inheritance, into possession of the estate, including beasts of burden, slaves, etc.  There was a very large number of free colored people in Charleston in the eighteenth century.

An interesting article on this subject may be found in the January issue of The Southern Workman.  Some of those who owned slaves in years before the war were by name De Reefs, McKinlays, Westons, Hollaways, Thornes, and Howards.  There are descendants of some of those people in  New York and Brooklyn to-day.  There is information enough at hand on this subject to fill a book, but let me relate you one story which may prove interesting.

There was a rich planter in Charleston of the name of Fowler.  He took a woman of African descent and established her in his home.  Whether there were a pledge of relationship or form of ceremony is not of record, but it was known that he had no other family.  There was a daughter born in that home to whom was given the name of Isabella.  But the planter insisted upon it that all persons should know her as Miss Fowler.  She grew to womanhood, and was married to Richard De Reef, a young man of Caucasian-Indian blood.  At the time of her marriage her father presented to her as a wedding gift a plantation and a sufficient number of slaves to work it.

The News and Courier says that two colored Charlestonians had each fourteen slaves, but the records of the family showed that at emanicpation Mrs. Isabella De Reef liverated forty instead of fourteen.

In another thing the News and Courier is wrong- that is, in saying those free persons of color had no political privileges.  The De Reef brothers- Richard and Joseph- born, respectively, in 1798 and in 1802, voted on reaching their majority, and ever after.  Some others may have enjoyed the same privilege, but there are colored men in Charleston to-day, and some now living elsewhere, who could claim the right to vote on the “grandfather clause”;  these were never enfranchised by an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

A former Charlestonian.

New York, May 23, 1907.

click HERE for a link to a copy of the original NYTimes article

the first lady’s mix

New York Times

In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery

Fraser Robinson III and his wife, Marian, with their children, Craig and Michelle, now the first lady.

By RACHEL L. SWARNS and JODI KANTOR Published: October 7, 2009

WASHINGTON — In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolinaestate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475.

In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time.

In the annals of American slavery, this painful story would be utterly unremarkable, save for one reason: This union, consummated some two years before the Civil War, represents the origins of a family line that would extend from rural Georgia, to Birmingham, Ala., to Chicago and, finally, to the White House.

Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama, the first lady.

Viewed by many as a powerful symbol of black advancement, Mrs. Obama grew up with only a vague sense of her ancestry, aides and relatives said. During the presidential campaign, the family learned about one paternal great-great-grandfather, a former slave from South Carolina, but the rest of Mrs. Obama’s roots were a mystery.

Now the more complete map of Mrs. Obama’s ancestors — including the slave mother, white father and their biracial son, Dolphus T. Shields — for the first time fully connects the first African-American first lady to the history of slavery, tracing their five-generation journey from bondage to a front-row seat to the presidency.

The findings — uncovered by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and The New York Times — substantiate what Mrs. Obama has called longstanding family rumors about a white forebear.

While President Obama’s biracial background has drawn considerable attention, his wife’s pedigree, which includes American Indian strands, highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans. Mrs. Obama and her family declined to comment for this article, aides said, in part because of the personal nature of the subject.

biracial wedding

I thought this was a sweet story for Sunday blogging.  Yay, biracial couple!

Jodi Hilton for The New York Times

New York Times

By KATIE ZEZIMA

Vows

SOMETIMES the one for whom you’ve been searching your entire life turns out to have been beside you all along or, in the case of Leah Elizabeth Squires and Eric Raymond Traub, in the next crib.

“The memories of her go as far back as I can remember,” Mr. Traub, now 32, said.

In the 1970s, their parents, Helen Gagel and Bob Squires and Linda and Ray Traub, were neighbors in Evanston, Ill., and became close friends, sharing a bond that ran deeper than their camaraderie and commitment to social justice. Ms. Squires’s parents are an interracial couple, while Mr. Traub, of mixed race himself, is an adopted son of white parents. Back then, Linda Traub said, “It wasn’t as accepted.”

Leah Squires and Eric Traub, the most bookish of the children, could always be found, said Catherine Squires, an older sister, “with their heads together” reading mystery and fantasy books. So independent and feisty was Ms. Squires that she even got Mr. Traub to play with her Barbies, her mother said.

After leaving for college they stayed in touch, if only sporadically, leading lives that were quite different yet oddly in sync.

In the winter of 2002, when the Varoom Group, a collective of dancers and choreographers of which Ms. Squires was a member, gave a performance, Mr. Traub and his girlfriend at the time came to New York to see it.

Their next reunion — the funeral of Ms. Squires’s father in October 2004 — was sad, but far more telling about their relationship. Mr. Traub was a pallbearer, which served to remind Ms. Squires of just how deep the bond between the two families remained.

“My dad was one of his first role models of being an African-American man,” she said.

interracial roommates

I just read this New York Times article by Tamar Lewin on the benefits of having a college roommate of a different race.  I’m not at all surprised that are some pros to this situation.  I was surprised by the admission here that campuses have been intentionally segregating students.  The piece makes it clear, but without judgement.  I find it appalling. I would LOVE to make Ohio State out to be the bad guy here, but this practice became apparent to me at my orientation for the University of Michigan which was only attended by incoming minorities, and even more clear when I was placed in an unofficial black dorm on a different campus from all of my classes and all of my friends from high school that were Going Blue.  You see, if having a roommate of a different race reduces racial prejudices, we could be so much farther along in eradicating these race issues if the schools hadn’t been keeping people apart.

michigan-wolverines

Interracial Roommates Can Reduce Prejudice

As a freshman at Ohio State University, and the only black student on his floor, Sam Boakye was determined to get good grades — in part to make sure his white roommate had no basis for negative racial views.

“If you’re surrounded by whites, you have something to prove,” said Mr. Boakye, now a rising senior who was born in Ghana. “You’re pushed to do better, to challenge the stereotype that black people are not that smart.”

Several recent studies, at Ohio State and elsewhere, have found that having a roommate of a different race can reduce prejudice, diversify friendships and even boost black students’ academic performance. But, the research found, such relationships are more stressful and more likely to break up than same-race pairings.

As universities have grown more diverse, and interracial roommate assignments are more common, social scientists have looked to them as natural field experiments that can provide insights on race relations.

…Several studies have shown that living with a roommate of a different race changes students’ attitudes. One, from the University of California at Los Angeles, generally found decreased prejudice among students with different-race roommates — but those who roomed with Asian-Americans, the group that scored the highest on measures of prejudice, became more prejudiced themselves.

Professionals who watch over roommate relationships say that interracial roommate assignments are an important part of campus diversity.

…One new study, of Princeton students, used daily questionnaires to monitor roommate interactions and perceptions.

“In the earliest weeks of the relationship, the positive emotions declined for minority students with white roommates,” said Mr. Trail, an author of the study. “It wasn’t that the white students started being mean or negative. Instead, it was a drop-off in positive behaviors, like smiling or making eye contact, that led the minority students to feel worse.”

“Just having diversity in classrooms doesn’t do anything to increase interracial friendships,” said Claudia Buchmann, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State… “But the intimacy of living together in residence halls, with no roommate, or a different-race roommate, does lead to more interracial friendships.”

Minority students in a predominantly white environment, she said, often cocoon themselves by clustering together. Both black and white resident advisers at Ohio State said it was common for black freshmen to seek out other black students.

“There are organizations on campus specifically designed to help minority students, and oftentimes minority students try to find their friends through those groups,” said Ellen Speicher, an Ohio State resident adviser who is white and a rising junior. “It makes sense, on a predominantly white campus.”

Mr. Boakye, a resident adviser for two years. said there was comfort in clustering.

“Being a minority at Ohio State, we try to stay together, to build ourselves as a community,” Mr. Boakye said. “It’s different for white guys.

“A lot of them come here without much exposure to diversity,” he said, “so when their first experience with a black guy isn’t so bad, they go and make more black friends. I think I made a good impression on my freshman roommate. When I saw him this year, he said, ‘Hey dude, you’re not the only black friend I have.’ That felt good.”

re: jennifer beals

chaiken-beals-l-word-times-talks2-420x500

 

Last night I went to hear Jennifer Beals speak at the NY Times Center.  Um….amazing!! I was mere feet away from her.  She was beautiful, radiant, kind, eloquent.  Everything I thought she’d be.  But better.  I got a little emotional when she first walked out.  Jennifer Beals is to me what I seem to have become for a few people.  When I realized I was biracial and that that actually meant something to me and means a lot in this country, I was left feeling a little lost.  I mean here I’d been thinking I knew myself quite well, knew what I wanted, knew where I wanted to go, and all of sudden this paradigm shift had me questioning everything.  I was all fired-up about my discovery, but I didn’t know what to do with it.  Someone suggested I watch The L Word because Jennifer Beals’ character, Bette Porter, was biracial and it was actually a part of the story line.  I watched it and I knew I wasn’t crazy.  I knew that it was ok to embark on this journey.  I knew that who I had an inkling that I really was, well, I really was, and I was not alone.  I saw myself reflected in the world and I had a sense of my right to be.  I learned to say that I’m not “exclusively black” and that phrase has become invaluable.  For these reasons Jennifer Beals is my biracial hero.  Last night put all of that in perspective.  So, if I’ve helped anyone stand firmly in their biracial truth, J.B. is to thank for that.  So grateful!!

 

 

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Googling “why blacks hate mulattos” also led someone to this blog today.  I would love to hear Jennifer Beals’ opinion on that one.  And I’m a little curious as to what instigated that particular search.

ought to give iowa a try

“dubuque, de moines, davenport, marshalltown, mason city, keokuk, ames, clearlake…”  if you didn’t do the music man in high school that might not mean anything to you, but this op-ed is worth reading anyway. in my opinion.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/opinion/09thrasher.html?_r=1

 

New York Times

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Iowa’s Family Values

Published: April 8, 2009
IF it weren’t for Iowa, my family may never have existed, and this gay, biracial New Yorker might never have been born.

In 1958, when my mother, who was white, and father, who was black, wanted to get married in Nebraska, it was illegal for them to wed. So they decided to go next door to Iowa, a state that was progressive enough to allow interracial marriage. My mom’s brother tried to have the Nebraska state police bar her from leaving the state so she couldn’t marry my dad, which was only the latest legal indignity she had endured. She had been arrested on my parents’ first date, accused of prostitution. (The conventional thought of the time being: Why else would a white woman be seen with a black man?)

On their wedding day, somehow, my parents made it out of Nebraska without getting arrested again, and were wed in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 1, 1958. This was five years before Nebraska would strike down its laws against interracial marriage, and almost a decade before the Supreme Court would outlaw miscegenation laws throughout the country in Loving v. Virginia.

When the good state of Iowa conferred the dignity of civic recognition on my parents’ relationship — a relationship some members of their own families thought was deviant and immoral, that the civil authorities of Nebraska had tried to destroy, and that even some of my mom’s college-educated friends believed would produce children striped like zebras — our family began. And by the time my father died, their interracial marriage was seen just as a marriage, and an admirable 45-year one at that.

That I almost cried last week upon reading that the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state law banning same-sex marriage will therefore come as no surprise. I’m still struck by one thought: over the years, I’ve met so many gay émigrés who felt it was unsafe to be gay in so-called flyover country and fled for the East and West coasts. But as a gay man, I can’t marry in “liberal” New York, where I’m a resident, or in “liberal” California, where I was born, and very soon I will have that right in “conservative” Iowa.

Of course, the desire to define relational rights and responsibilities with a partner, to have access to the protection that this kind of commitment affords, is rather conservative. But it’s a conservative dream that should be offered to all Americans. Though it takes great courage for gays to marry in a handful of states now, one hopes that someday, throughout the nation, gay marriages, like my parents’ union, will just be seen as marriages.

It’s safe to say that neither the dramas of our family, nor its triumphs, could have been possible without the simultaneously radical and conservative occasion of my parents’ civil marriage in Iowa. And so when the time comes, I hope to be married at the City Hall in Council Bluffs, in the state that not only supports my civil rights now, but which supported my parents’ so many years ago.

Steven W. Thrasher is a writer and media producer.

seaprop8

plight?

ny_times_chi_fire_mhsThanks to The Topaz Club this offensive NYTimes Freakonomics blog post (dated 8/12/08) was brought to my attention…

The Plight of Mixed-Race Children

What’s it like to grow up with one parent who is black and another who is white?

In a recent paper I co-authored with Roland FryerLisa Kahn, and Jorg Spenkuch, we look at data to try to answer that question. Here is what we find:

1) Mixed-race kids grow up in households that are similar along many dimensions to those in which black children grow up: similar incomes, the father is much less likely to be around than in white households, etc.

2) In terms of academic performance, mixed-race kids fall in between blacks and whites.

3) Mixed-race kids do have one advantage over white and black kids: the mixed-race kids are much more attractive on average.

The really interesting result, though, is the next one.

4) There are some bad adolescent behaviors that whites do more than blacks (like drinking and smoking), and there are other bad adolescent behaviors that blacks do more than whites (watching TV, fighting, getting sexually transmitted diseases). Mixed-race kids manage to be as bad as whites on the white behaviors and as bad as blacks on the black behaviors. Mixed-race kids act out in almost every way measured in the data set.

We try to use economic theory to explain this set of facts. I can’t say we are entirely successful. If we had to pick an explanation that best fits the facts, it would be the old sociology model of mixed-race individuals as the “marginal man”: not part of either racial group and therefore torn by inner conflict. One reason this model is largely consistent with our facts is because it makes so few strong predictions that it is hard to falsify, which isn’t really fair to the competing models.

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/the-plight-of-mixed-race-children/

 

My jaw dropped.

Then I wrote this…

Mr. Levitt,

I was deeply offended by your “Plight of Mixed-Race Children” blog post. Clearly the “tragic mulatto” was already a joke to you when you set out to determine how the young ones are doing.  First of all, the “more attractive” stereotype is becoming as irritating to me as the blacks and fried chicken thing.  If you took this seriously you would look beyond that to find out if those “attractive” children perceived themselves that way.  Or did they feel physically flawed somehow because they did not fit in easily with either their black or white counterparts. Did their peers regard them as attractive? I believe that this more attractive thing comes in to play after adolescence and should have had no place in your “study”.

You also seem to believe that all of these young black and white people have white mothers and black fathers.  Black fathers being absent and poor, generally leaving white mothers on their own to care for their children in lower class surroundings. That’s what I infer from this crappy post.  Come the f*** on! Many biracials have a white father and a black mother. Did the possibility of that even cross your mind? I am left to assume that this white man, Steven D. Levitt, wouldn’t dream of procreating with a black woman and that you judge the white men who would as somewhat less than yourself.

Where on Earth did you get your “data”? What questions exactly were you trying to answer? Why not interview biracial adults about their adolescent experience?  Why do you even care what it’s like to grow up black and white?  Clearly you do not.

I am 32. I have a black mother and a white father. I grew up in the wealthy suburbs of Detroit.  I excelled academically and artistically. I earned a full-ride to the University of Michigan without trying very hard.  During my adolescent years I did not have sex, a cigarette, a sip of alcohol, or get into a fight.  I did not come away from my adolescent experience thinking “That was kind of rough, but as least I am more attractive than all those ‘monoracial’ kids.” I have a vlog on youtube called “mulatto diaries”.  Should you someday find that you truly care to know what it is like to grow up in America with a black and a white parent, watch it. You will find the stories of many other biracial people there. You don’t have to take only my word for it.

fyi: I’ll be posting this on my blog mulattodiaries.wordpress.com.

Sincerely,
Tiffany Jones