‘I move back and forth between the racial divides': President Obama opens up on his mixed-race background and says it helps him recognize that most Americans have good intentions

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-22 16:31Z by Steven

‘I move back and forth between the racial divides': President Obama opens up on his mixed-race background and says it helps him recognize that most Americans have good intentions

The Daily Mail
London, United Kingdom
2014-12-21

Francesca Chambers, Political Reporter

  • ‘There’s no doubt that…I move back and forth between the racial divides,’ Obama told CNN host Candy Crowley. ‘I’ve got a lot of cultural influences’
  • Obama’s discussion with Crowley, taped on Friday, took a step further reflections he shared with reporters earlier that day at his year-end presser
  • The president argued ‘people are basically good and have good intentions’ and ‘the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing’
  • ‘If critics want to suggest that America is inherently and irreducibly racist, then why bother even working on it?’ he told Crowley

President Barack Obama is crediting his racial make up and exposure at a young age to an array of demographic groups with his ability to see the good in people.

‘There’s no doubt that…I move back and forth between the racial divides,’ Obama told CNN host Candy Crowley during a one-on-one interview that aired this morning on the news network.

‘Not just black-white, but Asian and Latino and, you know, I’ve got a lot of cultural influences,’ he added. ‘I think what it does do for me is to recognize that most Americans have good intentions.’

As he writes about in detail in his memoir, Dreams from My Father, Obama was born to a white woman from Kansas and black man from Kenya. The couple met while studying at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

The young couple separated after days after Barack Obama was born and formally divorced a few years later. Obama’s mother soon remarried and she and her son moved to her husband’s home country of Indonesia.

Four years later Obama returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents and to finish his schooling. His mother and sister eventually relocated to Hawaii for several years, as well, before moving back to Indonesia again, but Obama remained in Hawaii with his mother’s parents.

After graduating high school Obama moved to the contiguous United States, where he has lived ever since with his wife Michelle, whom he met while in law school, and their two children, Sasha, and Malia.

Obama’s discussion with Crowley about his personal history, taped on Friday, took a step further the life reflections the first mixed-race president first shared with reporters at his year-end press conference earlier that day.

The president had argued that ‘people are basically good and have good intentions,’ even though ‘sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should…

Read the entire article here. Read the CNN transcript here.

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The Whiteness Project: Facing Race In A Changing America

Posted in Articles, Audio, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-22 02:52Z by Steven

The Whiteness Project: Facing Race In A Changing America

National Public Radio
All Things Considered
2014-12-21

Karen Grigsby Bates
Los Angeles Correspondent

Whitney Dow found participants in the Whiteness Project by putting out a call for interested white folks in Buffalo to talk about whiteness on tape.

The voices in the Whiteness Project vary by gender, age and income, but they all candidly express what it is like to be white in an increasingly diverse country.

“I don’t feel that personally I’ve benefited from being white. That’s because I grew up relatively poor,” a participant shared. “My father worked at a factory.” These are the kind of unfiltered comments that filmmaker Whitney Dow was hoping to hear when he started recording a group of white people, and hoped to turn their responses into provocative, interactive videos.

“I was essentially giving people permission to discuss this,” he says. “And I believe there’s a huge hunger in this country to engage this topic.”…

…”It is not typical for white people to think about their race,” says Catherine Orr, who teaches critical identity studies at Beloit College in Wisconsin. She says that many white people who don’t feel privileged struggle against the notion that race gives them an inherent advantage. “I think white folks are terribly invested in our own innocence,” she points out. “We don’t want to think about how what we have is related to what other people don’t have.”…

Listen to the story here. Download the story here.

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Vincent van Gogh and Barack Obama in a poem by Derek Walcott

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-12-21 22:44Z by Steven

Vincent van Gogh and Barack Obama in a poem by Derek Walcott

Literature & Aesthetics
Volume 20, Number 2 (December 2010)
pages 181-192

Thijs Weststeijn
Department of Art, Religion, and Cultural Sciences
University of Amsterdam

Remember Vincent, saint
of all sunstroke…!
The sun explodes into irises,
the shadows are crossing like crows,
they settle, clawing the hair,
yellow is screaming.
Dear Theo, I shall go mad.


Jean-François Millet – The Gleaners (1857)

Speaking here is a young Antillean artist, in a poem by Derek Walcott (1930), a writer from the island of Saint Lucia. The wish to identify with Van Gogh is a theme from Walcott’s own past: originally he wanted to be a painter. Together with a friend he decided to depict every corner of their windswept island. This ambition explains why Walcott’s vision of poetry is so often characterized as “painterly.” He calls his writings “frescoes of the New World,” and declares: “I still smell linseed oil in the wild views / Of villages and the tang of turpentine… Salt wind encouraged us, and the surf’s white noise.”

Walcott’s artistic role models were the nineteenth-century masters. Recently he dedicated an epic poem, Tiepolo’s Hound (2000), to the impressionist Camille Pissarro. The hybrid origins of Pissarro, born in the Danish colony on the Leeward Island of Saint Thomas, son of a mother from the Dominican Republic and a Portuguese-Jewish father, meant he connected well with Walcott’s work. Here the Antillean melting pot of different cultures is an important theme. Before this, Gauguin had already been one of the poet’s heroes: his journey to Martinique supposedly turned him into a “Creole painter.” Moreover, Walcott was strongly attracted to social themes. He describes the continued impression made by a reproduction of Millet’s The Gleaners in his childhood home.

So it should come as no surprise that, in his younger years in particular, Walcott was inspired by Vincent van Gogh. The Dutch master played a role in Walcott’s descriptions of sun-drenched landscapes: he sought after a creative intoxication “as Van Gogh’s shadow rippling on a cornfield.” In this way Walcott’s poetry opens an Antillean perspective on the shadow of Van Gogh and how it shifts over issues of birth ground and origins.

Although Walcott’s more recent poems have paid less attention to Van Gogh, a political revolution returned him to the love of his younger years: the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. This event confronted him once more with themes such as racial and national identity which had already played a major role in his early work. Walcott wrote some lines in response to the election results. Here, he uses Van Gogh’s imagery to give poetic form to the history and future expectations of black people in the New World.

Walcott’s poem, which features both Van Gogh and Obama, combines artistic imagination with historical and social themes and political reality. This means it can be interpreted in a number of ways. The following interpretation takes a specific viewpoint, namely that from the person the poem is dedicated to: the 44th American president. After all, Obama himself has written extensively about the themes that determined the course of his life. The president and the poet have each at some time labeled themselves as “mongrel,” referring to their mixed European-African origins. As it will become clear, they agree on yet more things, such as their idea that poetical imagery can improve the world.

Shortly after the elections in November 2008, Obama was photographed carrying a book under his arm: Walcott’s collected works. What was the significance of this photograph?…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama’s message of hope and change is all but lost amid the chaos of Ferguson

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-21 22:14Z by Steven

Obama’s message of hope and change is all but lost amid the chaos of Ferguson

The Guardian
2014-08-22

Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law
Columbia University, New York, New York

The president is being pressed to take sides in a personal, political and structural tragedy in a divided nation

In 2008, the year that Barack Obama became president of the United States, the New York-based artist Carrie Mae Weems created a video installation in which Obama’s face melts from one thing to another: model citizen, communist infiltrator, immigrant, foreigner, friend, black Jesus, brown Hitler, American dream, chicken, monkey, zebra, joker, minstrel. As Weems’s voiceover describes it: “A reason to hope, a reason to change, a reason to reason …”

Of course, Obama has always been somewhat shape-shifting in his symbolism – it’s probably what got him elected to begin with. The “hope and change” that became his trademark was more than mere slogan; the very idea of a first black president became a mirror for whatever people wanted to see in him.

Now we come to a situation all too familiar in America with the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Obama is being pressed to take one of two sides in a layered personal, political, and structural tragedy for which carelessly drawn lines in the sand could not be more unhelpful. The last two weeks of anguish in Ferguson cap a difficult season for Obama. Already besieged by the situations in Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he has had to manoeuvre his way through attacks at home from every side. From Congressional Republicans threatening to sue him for trying to implement healthcare reform to the snarkily undermining comments of Hillary Clinton – this summer has been a season of confrontation. Is Obama too aggressive in his exercise of executive power? Or too chicken to invade? Is he passive on immigration? Too intemperate with Congress? Rarely has a president been so buffeted by such a variety of inconsistently projected personality traits…

…With a nation so divided, Obama wades into the debate not so much as president or as constitutional law professor or as chief executive of the Justice Department. In many people’s minds, he is fixed as exclusively African American rather than “really” American. That symbolism puts him in something of a no-win situation: anything he says or does will be heard as siding. While the crowds of protesters in Ferguson and other cities around the country are actually quite diverse, they have become singularly monolithic in many media representations. Except for the journalists who have been assaulted and a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who was arrested, protesters have been portrayed as representing all African Americans everywhere – noisy “agitators” who make police and honest white citizens “fear for their lives” and who “reflect badly” on the greatness of our republic…

Read the entire article here.

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Anti-intellectualism is taking over the US

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-21 21:57Z by Steven

Anti-intellectualism is taking over the US

The Guardian
2012-05-18

Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law
Columbia University, New York, New York

The rise in academic book bannings and firings is compounded by the US’s growing disregard for scholarship itself

Recently, I found out that my work is mentioned in a book that has been banned, in effect, from the schools in Tucson, Arizona. The anti-ethnic studies law passed by the state prohibits teachings that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” and/or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” I invite you to read the book in question, titled Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, so that you can decide for yourselves whether it qualifies.

In fact, I invite you to take on as your summer reading the astonishingly lengthy list of books that have been removed from the Tucson public school system as part of this wholesale elimination of the Mexican-American studies curriculum. The authors and editors include Isabel Allende, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Kozol, Rudolfo Anaya, bell hooks, Sandra Cisneros, James Baldwin, Howard Zinn, Rodolfo Acuña, Ronald Takaki, Jerome Skolnick and Gloria Anzaldúa. Even Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Shakespeare’s The Tempest received the hatchet.

Trying to explain what was offensive enough to warrant killing the entire curriculum and firing its director, Tucson school board member Michael Hicks stated rather proudly that he was not actually familiar with the curriculum. “I chose not to go to any of their classes,” he told Al Madrigal on The Daily Show. “Why even go?” In the same interview, he referred to Rosa Parks as “Rosa Clark.”

The situation in Arizona is not an isolated phenomenon. There has been an unfortunate uptick in academic book bannings and firings, made worse by a nationwide disparagement of teachers, teachers’ unions and scholarship itself. Brooke Harris, a teacher at Michigan’s Pontiac Academy for Excellence, was summarily fired after asking permission to let her students conduct a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin’s family. Working at a charter school, Harris was an at-will employee, and so the superintendent needed little justification for sacking her. According to Harris, “I was told… that I’m being paid to teach, not to be an activist.” (It is perhaps not accidental that Harris worked in the schools of Pontiac, a city in which nearly every public institution has been taken over by cost-cutting executives working under “emergency manager” contracts. There the value of education is measured in purely econometric terms, reduced to a “product,” calculated in “opportunity costs.”)…

Read the entire article here.

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Multiracial Identity Program – Panel Discussion

Posted in Campus Life, Forthcoming Media, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, United States on 2014-12-21 21:36Z by Steven

Multiracial Identity Program – Panel Discussion

Multiracial Identity Program
Portland State University
2015-01-13 through 2015-01-15

Multicultural Center
1825 SW Broadway
Smith Memorial Student Union, Suite 228
Portland, Oregon 97201
Tuesday, 2015-01-13, 16:00-18:00 PST (Local Time)

Kickstarting the Multiracial Identity Program, this panel will consist of individuals who identity as multiracial and/or multiethnic. Come together for an insightful discussion of the experiences and implications of identifying along a spectrum of racial and ethnic backgrounds. For more information please contact the Cultural Centers at cultures@pdx.edu or (503) 725-5342.

For more information, click here.

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My family has always been mixed race. But it has never been post-racial

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-21 21:01Z by Steven

My family has always been mixed race. But it has never been post-racial

The Guardian
2014-12-17

Ramou Sarr
Boston, Massachusetts

I was always terrified that my white nephew would grow up to be a racist. The events in Ferguson tested our relationship to its breaking point

It was almost 10 years ago, and my little blond nephew couldn’t have been older than five when, during a game of making funny faces, I pulled my ears out from under my hair – which always smelled burned from the flat iron I used to tame my kinky curls – and puffed my cheeks out.

“You look like a monkey,” he whispered. I asked my nephew to repeat himself. “You look like a monkey,” he said.

He couldn’t have known why I caught my breath, I told myself – he couldn’t have possibly understood that calling a black person like me “a monkey” was an old racist insult. I tried to feel confident in knowing that much, but a part of me still worried and panicked that the little boy I loved so much might grow up to be one of those men I hated.

I am the sole daughter between an older, white half-brother from my mother’s first marriage and a younger brother who looks like me – and I was 15 years old when my nephew, my older brother’s son, came into my life. The love I felt for him shocked me, despite the some 900 miles that separated us for most of his life: he was smarter and funnier and had more personality than all the other kids in the sandbox.

But around the time my nephew was born, I went to live in Massachusetts with my father, leaving most of my maternal relatives behind in the midwest. I felt isolated so far away from the family I’d grown up with – but it was preferable to living with my mother and her third, white husband who didn’t like (let alone love) his new wife’s two black children…

Read the entire article here.

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Beyond the ‘Race’ Concept: The Reproduction of Racism in England

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-12-21 20:50Z by Steven

Beyond the ‘Race’ Concept: The Reproduction of Racism in England

Sydney Studies in Society and Culture
Volume 4 (1988)
pages 7-31

Robert Miles, Associate Dean of Study Abroad and International Exchanges College of Arts and Sciences
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Large numbers of people continue for long periods of time to cling to myth, to justify it in formulas that are repeated in their cultures, and to reject falsifying information when prevailing myths justify their interests, roles, and past actions, or assuage their fears. (Edelman, 1977:3)

The deepest instinct of the Englishman–how the word ‘instinct’ keeps forcing itself in again and again!–is for continuity: he never acts more freely nor innovates more boldly than when he is conscious of conserving or even of reacting (Enoch Powell, cited in Wood, 1965:145)

This is the doctrine of the new tribalism, and as such would make sure, if it prevailed, that there would be Washingtons and riots in Britain. (Times, 18.11.67)

Introduction

This paper has two objectives. First, it will summarise and develop my critique of the sociology of ‘race relations’ and the way in which it utilises the idea of ‘race’ as an analytical concept. It will be concluded from this that it is necessary to show why and how the idea of ‘race’ is employed in social relations rather than take for granted its commonsense status. The concepts of racialisation and racism will be shown to be central to this task. Second, as a way of illustrating the significance of this argument, I shall consider a key phase in the racialisation of domestic English politics. I show, first, how the 1964/ 70 Labour government initially employed the idea of ‘race’ to problematise the migrant presence in favour of the exposure of racism and, second, how Enoch Powell subverted a later attempt to do the latter by an ideological intervention which employed the category of ‘nation’ as an allusion to the idea of ‘race’.

The Ideological Character of ‘Race Relations’ Sociology

A confrontation with the idea of ‘race’ is a confrontation with the history and legacy of a central strand of Western thought. During the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, the idea of ‘race’ occupied a key place in the attempt by intellectuals and politicians to understand the rapidly changing and expanding world in which they lived, and the successful attempt to attribute scientific status to the idea of ‘race’ is now well understood (Banton, 1977). That some eight million people had to die in the course of a political project influenced by that bogus science is also well understood, despite ongoing attempts by fascist groups to define this historical episode as a myth. The work of many biologists and geneticists both before and after the Holocaust has demonstrated, clearly and repeatedly, that the idea of there being discrete biological groups ranged in a hierarchy of superiority/ inferiority has no scientific foundation. Ambiguities remain in the way in which some of them contimie to employ the idea of ‘race’ within scientific discourse but where its use is maintained and defended, it is in terms which are clearly divorced from the nineteenth century emphasis upon the classification of phenotypical variation (Montagu, 1972). ‘Race’, in the sense of discrete sub-species, is no longer seriously considered to be biological fact. Thus ‘any use of racial categories must take its justifications from some other source than biology’ (Rose et. al., 1984:127).

Most social scientists accept and adopt this as their starting point when analysing the continuing reproduction of racism. But, in the course of rejecting scientific racism, many of them have incorporated the key ‘concept’ of scientific racism into their analytical framework. They have redefined ‘race’ as a social category and utilise it as both explanans and explanandum, in an attempt to constitute ‘race relations’ as a discrete object of analysis, about which theories can be formulated, tested and reformulated (e.g. Rex, 1970; cf. Miles, 1982, 1984b).

Historically, and in the contemporary world, people attribute meaning to particular patterns of phenotypical variation and act in accordance with that process of signification. The occurrence of this complex process of cognition and action is not contested. What is contested is the analytical method and concepts employed to understand and explain it. The conventional sociological method is to claim that, as a result of this process, ‘races’ are constituted and thereby come to relate to one another, and that the means and consequences of this fall into regular patterns which can be theorised. Thereafter, and crucially, ‘race’ is transformed into a real phenomenon which has identifiable effects in the social world. ‘Race’ becomes a variable with measurable consequences. Sociologists employ this variable to report that, for example, ‘race’ has important effects on educational achievement, that ‘race’ interrelates with class to produce multiple patterns of disadvantage, that ‘race’ intervenes in the political process affecting the way in which people vote, that ‘race’ determines an individual’s chances of being unemployed, arrested by the police or becoming a magistrate, and so on. That is, sociologists employ the idea of ‘race’ as an explanans, as an analytical concept identifying a phenomenon with determinant effects.

This is a classic example of reification. There is no identifiable phenomenon of ‘race’ which can have such effects on social relations and processes. There is only a process of signification in the course of which the idea of ‘race’ is employed to interpret the presence and behaviour of others, a conceptual process which can guide subsequent action and reaction. This complex of signification and action, where it occurs systematically over periods of time, has structural consequences. This complex can be referred to as a process of racialisation, a concept which refers to the social construction but also refers to patterns of action and reaction consequent upon the signification. Within this process, the ideology of racism plays a central role by offering criteria upon which signification can occur, attributing negative correlates to all those possessing the real or alleged criteria, and legitimating consequent discriminatory behaviour or consequences…

Read the entire article here.

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Getting in Touch with Our “Identity”

Posted in Campus Life, Forthcoming Media, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, United States on 2014-12-21 18:38Z by Steven

Getting in Touch with Our “Identity”

Multiracial Identity Program
Portland State University
2015-01-13 through 2015-01-15

Multicultural Center
1825 SW Broadway
Smith Memorial Student Union, Suite 228
Portland, Oregon 97201
Wednesday, 2015-01-14, 12:00-13:30 PST (Local Time)

The multiple types of racial identities on campus varies. Let’s come together and discuss our identities to break barriers and create a better knitted community amongst ourselves. For more information please contact the Cultural Centers at cultures@pdx.edu or (503) 725-5342.

For more information, click here.

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Mixed-race males wanted to take part in research project

Posted in Media Archive, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2014-12-21 17:54Z by Steven

Mixed-race males wanted to take part in research project

Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies
University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
2014-12-21

Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Doctoral Researcher
R.Salisbury@leeds.ac.uk
Telephone: 07817 636 144

  • Are you a mixed-race male of black and white parentage?
  • Are you aged between 16 and 18 and educated in the USA?
  • Would you like to take part in an interview or discussion group considering the educational experiences of black/white mixed-race males?

To take part or for an informal chat about the project, please contact me, Remi Joseph-Salisbury, by e-mail or phone. I look forward in hearing from you.

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