I heart New York!

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

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deblasio ask anything

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

deblasio fam

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

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

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

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

Now…maybe, soon… people will see this

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

or this 😉

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, November 6, 2013  by 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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race manners

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

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

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

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

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me with my parents:)

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

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

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

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

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

Biracial Children: Racism Advice for White Parents

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

By Jenée Desmond-Harris

Updated Monday April 8, 2013

The Root —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll try it out here.

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

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

mixie girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

before this hurts too much

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

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

“kinds” of biracial

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

Is One Mulatto the Same as the Next?

VIA

By Whitney Teal

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

Image of Thomas Chatterton Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

a fearless champion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLEM RICHARDSON

Monday, November 23rd 2009

VIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He walked away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

empower women, eliminate racism

March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010

Thank you, Dr. Dorothy Height!

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

Civil Rights Elder Sees Dream Come True

hosted by Michel Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

denying the rich history of america’s multiracial realities

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

Unfortunate message to our mixed-race children

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

SOURCE

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

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

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

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

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

the greatest negro?

I immediately thought of Obama while reading this article and am quite, quite certain that most agree that he is indeed a “Negro.”  That there was debate around Douglass’ negrocity ( I like to make up words sometimes) is of interest to me because I’m fascinated by the fact that mulatto was a valid and recognized identity in America before 1920.  Then it wasn’t anymore.  The ranking of Negroes from greatest to least strikes me as ludicrous.  That being said, the question, “Will Obama go down in history as the greatest Negro who ever lived?” popped into my head.  And then I thought that seeing as he isn’t one “in the full sense of the term,”  MLK probably outranks him.  How quickly I went from judging the system of rankings to ordering some myself!

Knoxville’s farewell to a civil-rights icon

By Robert Booker

SOURCE

A large crowd packed into Logan Temple A.M.E. Zion Church to honor the memory of the country’s best known civil-rights advocate. Among them were Knoxville’s black elite.

It was Feb. 25, 1895, and they had come to say farewell to Frederick Douglass, who had been born into slavery and died six days earlier.

Two days before the memorial, The Knoxville Tribune had its say about Douglass and wondered if he was a true Negro: “If we consider Douglass as a Negro, he was the brightest of his race in America. But he was not a Negro in the full sense of the term. Although born a slave, his father was a white man and his mother was a mulatto. Born a bastard and a slave, he rose to distinction and influences, and there were those among a class of white people who delighted to honor him.

“There are those who class him as the greatest Negro. This estimate of him is extravagant and unwarranted. In the first place he was not a Negro, and in the next place he is outranked by other Negroes. The greatest Negro who ever lived was Toussaint L’Ouverture the Haitian general, whose death was and will always be a dishonor to France. No Negro in this country ever approached L’Ouverture in intellect.”

L’Ouverture (1744-1803) was the Haitian independence leader who took part in the slave revolt in that country in 1790. He joined the Spaniards when they attacked the French in 1793, but fought for the French when they agreed to abolish slavery. By 1801 he had virtual control over Hispaniola, but was arrested and died in a French prison.

The blacks who spoke at the Douglass memorial took issue with the Tribunes’s assessment of him.

Attorney Samuel R. Maples said he wanted “to correct a statement in one of the local papers that Douglass boasted of his white blood and denied being a Negro. This was not true. Douglass never denied being a Negro. He was very proud of his race.”

Attorney William F. Yardley, who had introduced Douglass when he spoke here at Staub’s Opera House Nov. 21, 1881, said Douglass “Was the victim of the great American curse – slavery. He slept with dogs and ate the crumbs from his master’s table, but his great mind and energy lifted him to the loftiest heights of fame. He was not a creature of circumstance but of force. He was tireless and had been the greatest blessing to his race.”

Charles W. Cansler spoke of Douglass as “An anti-slavery agitator who represented a great moral principle and not a minister of malice. He was seventy-eight years old when he died and spent his life earnestly in the extension of freedom and in establishing justice among men. He was the Moses of his race, and it is hard to tell what his heath means to us.”

Rev. J.R. Riley, pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church, spoke of Douglass as a leader: “He was carved by the hand of deity to be a great leader, though cradled in the most iniquitous institution – American slavery – and schooled in dire adversity, his power of mind and greatness of spirit had surmounted all, and he stood out boldly as the greatest man of his race and the peer of all great men.”

It seems that Riley, who was pastor of Shiloh from 1891 to 1913, knew Douglass personally and they had many experiences together. He said his friend had “great personal magnetism. His quick wit and ability to read men made him irresistible in his influence among men.”

the cover of the sheet music for Frederick Douglass's funeral march

This image shows the front cover of “Frederick Douglass Funeral March.”  At each corner of his portrait are pen and ink drawings in circular frames that depict the slave trade, bondage, auction block, and freedom.

grateful for the choice

I mailed my Census form yesterday.  I must say that after all the hype, I was totally underwhelmed by the experience.  I checked the two boxes.  I can’t say it brought me any great feelings of validation.  I guess I thought they’d be asking some questions that went beyond race.  I also thought that “Negro” would be the only African American classification term offered since there was so much buzz about the word being used in 2010.  At any rate, I enjoyed this article.

More than black or white

By Annette John-Hall

Inquirer Columnist

SOURCE

For Kathrin P. Ivanovic, racial identity means a whole lot more than just black or white.

Her makeup runs the gamut.

“My mother is German and my birth father is African American with Cuban ancestry,” says Ivanovic, 29, director of development at the Nationalities Service Center, a Philadelphia nonprofit that services immigrants and refugees.

“Plus, my adopted dad is white, and I’m queer. Unfortunately, they don’t have a box for that.

“. . . I call myself a mixed chick.”

But when her 2010 U.S. Census form arrives in the mail this week (the 10-question form is being touted as the shortest in census history), Ivanovic will be satisfied to check black and white – which is really how she sees herself anyway.

Since the 2000 census, for millions of Americans like Ivanovic, “check one or more” will apply.

There is plenty to choose from, with the number of racial and ethnic categories at 63. In the 1990 census, there were only five designations offered.

It can be dizzying. If you’re, say, Asian, you can check any combination of Asian American, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Guamanian, or Chamorro, Samoan, as well as write-in categories for Other Asian or Other Pacific Islander.

In addition, you can also note if you’re of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin. That’s because since 1970, Hispanic was no longer recognized as an overarching classification.

Still with me? (And here I thought having Negro on the same line as the black or African American box was confusing.)

But I’m all for it, especially if it paints a more genuine picture of who we are – all 300 million of us. Doesn’t matter if only 2 percent of Americans were identified as more than one race in 2000. Nowadays, we’ve got more multiracial and multiethnic couples and children than ever before, which means the percentage is sure to increase this year.

Which in turn enables the government to allocate funds more equitably. Census data are used in everything from determining the number of congressmen your region gets to the assessing the amount of funding for your town’s bridge project to supporting health centers.

Race data also have driven the nation’s civil rights laws (how many people were denied the right to vote, how many were discriminated against in housing, for example) and are still used to monitor inequalities in health and education.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Truth is, the U.S. Census was historically more of an oppressor than an advocate, especially when it came to African Americans.

Racial count

From the time census data were first collected in 1790, when enumerators listed categories of free men and slaves, whites used the census to diminish African Americans.

“You can see why they had a slave category,” says MIT professor Melissa Nobles, author of Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics. “Southern slave owners wanted the least amount of information, thinking it would help abolitionists. And abolitionists wanted the most amount of information [to make their case].”

Throughout the 19th century and until 1930, census counters used categories such as quadroon (one-quarter black), octoroon (one-eighth black), and mulatto (half black) to describe any person who had a discernible amount of African American blood.

Like they could tell just from looking.

Even after 1930, Southern laws imposed the “one-drop rule” to its census enumerating, meaning they were to count as mulattos anyone who even looked remotely black – a mandate loosely applied by census counters nationwide.

“They used it for racial social science,” Nobles says. For example, they used census data to prove skewed theories (arguing, for instance, that biracial people – “the tragic mulatto” – were somehow weaker and suffered from higher death rates), which in turn helped legislators make the case against interracial marriage.

But even as the categories have expanded, some today are pushing for a separate, generic multiracial designation.

Ralina L. Joseph, a professor of communications at the University of Washington, worries that even though the data will show us as more diverse and multihued, they could be misinterpreted once again.

“I don’t want people to read the numbers and think that racism is over, that this is a post-racial moment,” says Joseph, who is biracial. “We should hope that people who are disenfranchised through race, class, and poverty levels should be identified as such.”

Some sociologists even insist that racial designations have no place on a census form, if it is indeed as simple as an objective count.

But in a multiracial, multiethnic society where even the president is a self-described “mutt,” Kathrin Ivanovic is grateful for the choice.

“I am mixed. It’s how I view the world, and in some ways it’s how the world views me,” she says. “To not be able to identify that way is dishonest to me personally.”

“The Census Taker” (1870) Harper’s Weekly

keith bardwell, please read this article

Just to catch you up to speed.  By the way, don’t worry about us.  We are doing just fine.  Thank you for your grave concern.  That you would go to such lengths as interfering with God’s blessing of love and devotion (I know, I know- only to certain couples) just to spare us a lifetime of confusion and exclusion is sweet.  But no thank you.  Times have changed, my friend.  I mean, you do seem to think of yourself as a kind of a friend of the mulattos.  A really ignorant and misinformed friend.  I see how it could happen.  For years (white)people were taught that race-mixing was wrong.  And if those people were desperate not to feel really racist, that belief was justified with feigned concern for the “spurious issue” which would result from interracial couplings.  That coupled with the “tragic mulatto” propaganda that has been bandied about the country since way back in the day… Well, I can see how you may have been lead astray.  I hope you can open your mind now.  After the couple of weeks I imagine you’ve been having, you really have no excuse.

w onesie

Are Mixed-Race Children Better Adjusted?

By JOHN CLOUD Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009

That Americans like answers in black and white, a cultural trait we confirmed last year when the biracial man running for President was routinely called “black”.

The flattening of Barack Obama’s complex racial background shouldn’t have been surprising. Many multiracial historical figures in the U.S. have been reduced (or have reduced themselves) to a single aspect of their racial identities: Booker T. Washington, Tina Turner, and Greg Louganis are three examples. This phenomenon isn’t entirely pernicious; it is at least partly rooted in our concern that growing up with a fractured identity is hard on kids. The psychologist J.D. Teicher summarized this view in a 1968 paper: “Although the burden of the Negro child is recognized as a heavy one, that of the Negro-White child is seen to be even heavier.”

But new research says this old, problematized view of multiracial identity is outdated. In fact, a new paper in the Journal of Social Issues shows that multiracial adolescents who identify proudly as multiracial fare as well as — and, in many cases, better than — kids who identify with a single group, even if that group is considered high-status (like, say, Asians or whites). This finding was surprising because psychologists have argued for years that mixed-race kids will be better adjusted if they pick a single race as their own.

The population of multiracial kids in the U.S. has soared from approximately 500,000 in 1970 to more than 6.8 million in 2000, according to Census data quoted in this pdf. In the early years, research on these kids highlighted their difficulties: the disapproval they faced from neighbors and members of their extended families; the sense that they weren’t “full” members in any racial community; the insecurity and self-loathing that often resulted from feeling marginalized on all sides. That simple but harsh playground question — “What are you?” — torments many multiracial kids. Psychologists call this a “forced-choice dilemma” that compels children to claim some kind of identity — even if only a half-identity — in return for social acceptance.

But the new Journal of Social Issues paper suggests this dilemma has become less burdensome in the age of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama. The paper’s authors, a team led by Kevin Binning of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Miguel Unzueta of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, studied 182 multiracial high schoolers in Long Beach, Calif. Binning, Unzueta and their colleagues write that those kids who identified with multiple racial groups reported significantly less psychological stress than those who identified with a single group, whether a “low-status” group like African-Americans or a “high-status” group like whites. The multiracial identifiers were less alienated from peers than monoracial identifiers, and they were no more likely to report having engaged in problem behaviors, such as substance use or persistent school absence.

The writers theorize that multiracial kids who choose to associate with a single race are troubled by their attempts to “pass,” whereas those who choose to give voice to their own uniqueness find pride in that act. “Rather than being ‘caught’ between two worlds,” the authors write, “it might be that individuals who identify with multiple groups are better able to navigate both racially homogeneous and heterogeneous environments than individuals who primarily identify with one racial group.” The multiracial kids are able to “place one foot in the majority and one in the minority group, and in this way might be buffered against the negative consequences of feeling tokenized.”

In short, multiracial kids seem to create their own definitions for fitting in, and they show more psychological flexibility than those mixed-race kids who feel bound to one choice or another.

Fortunately, all these questions of racial identity are becoming less important, as we inch ever closer to the day when the U.S. has no racial majority. One of these days, after all, we will all be celebrating our multiracial pride.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1880467,00.html#ixzz0W2BxqzTZ

homecoming controversy

hampsealblue

Pageant winner makes history at historically black university

via

HAMPTON, Virginia (CBS) – A young woman made history at a Virginia University Wednesday night by becoming the first biracial pageant winner at a historically black university.

Nikole Churchill was coronated as Hampton University’s new homecoming queen, becoming the first half-white, half-asian winner.

“As soon as she was announced the winner, you could hear seats closing, and people booing,” said Hampton University Junior Ashley Sowell.

Some on campus and many more on the internet made an issue of Churchill representing the school.

“You expect to see those types of roles, your representatives… let’s be honest, I want to be represented by someone who looks like me,” said Hampton University Junior Sade Scott.

The University says the controversy is overblown. Officials say Nikole Churchill has the full support of the university. She got a standing ovation at Wednesday night’s coronation, and says she’ll serve proudly.

hu

Congratulations are in order for the 22-year old college Hawaiian senior who became the first ‘non black person’ to receive the honor on at the historically black University on Friday!  But it seems that everybody on campus wasn’t happy to see Nikole take home the crown, and things got so bad she wrote a letter to President Obama:

Aloha Mr. Obama!

My name is Nikole Churchill, a senior nursing major at Hampton University. This past Friday October 9, 2009, I was honored to be crowned Miss Hampton University 2009-2010. It truly was the best night of my life! With that being said, I am sad to say that my crowning was not widely accepted and many negative comments regarding my win have been shared throughout my campus.

It would be much easier to say that possibly some were not accepting of the news because I wasn’t the most qualified contestant; however, the true reason for the disapproval was because of the color of my skin. I am not African American. Despite the unfortunate beliefs that some are saying I should not have won, I am desperately trying to focus on those who believe in me and support me and my goal to represent this beautiful, multicultural campus the very best way that I can. I would love your help!

I am hoping that perhaps you would be able to make an appearance to my campus, Hampton University, so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin and doubting my abilities to represent, but rather be proud of the changes our nation is making towards accepting diversity. People are even nicknaming me, “lil Obama” because of various reasons. This is truly an honor as well!

I am also from Hawaii (Wahiawa) and I am hoping that you can assist me in opening some closed minds and help share some aloha spirit throughout my campus. I feel as though you could relate to my situation, which is why I immediately wanted to contact you. I was interviewed last night at the HU vs. HU football game by news channel 13 and I mentioned how individuals such as you and myself are making changes in hopes people can stop placing so much focus on our skin color by letting that define what we can, cannot, should, and/or should not do. Dr. Harvey welcomed me last night to the family with open arms and I was beyond honored when he told me that he is behind me 100%. I am proud to represent Hampton University and I am so proud having you to represent our home, our country. Your support with my crowning as Miss Hampton University 2009-2010 would be graciously appreciated. Please reply, I will be looking forward to it!

-Nikole Churchill

letter via