Tag Archives: mixed race

A Mighty Heart: Revealed

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

A Mighty Heart has gotten a lot of play on this blog (see here and here).

We’ve debated everything from the motives in selecting the lead actress to Marianne Pearl’s experiences to neo-blackface.

Personally, I’ve been keeping an eye out for an answer. In last month’s Glamour (or it could have been the month before – I only read Glamour every so often), Marianne Pearl discussed her experience and indicated that she sought out Angelina Jolie. She initially sought her out in friendship, and later asked for her to take on the role.

This month, I’m paging through Esquire and start reading Tom Junod’s extremely thorough and researched interview on Angelina Jolie. On page 85, Junod shone some light on the making of the film:

A year later, Mariane Pearl published a memoir of her marriage to Danny and the terrible circumstances of his death. Called A Mighty Heart, it was not a bitter book nor a book of broken faith. It was, indeed, a book that put forth the notion that Danny and Mariane Pearl did not lose to unimaginable evil but rather triumphed over it by living as citizens of the world to the very end. Brad Pitt bought it while it was still in manuscript and started to develop it as a vehicle for his wife, Jennifer Aniston; and when Brad left Jennifer for Angelina after the filming of Mr. and Mrs. Smith,it was Mariane Pearl who suggested Angelina Jolie for the role of Mariane Pearl, for, as it turned out, Angelina Jolie and Mariane Pearl were not just kindred spirits. They rather startlingly drew the same meaning from their different experiences after 9/11. They rather startlingly both believed that the story of Daniel Pearl’s death was about good people coming together to fight evil rather than evil guys coming together to destroy good. They rather inevitably became close. “I read the book,” Angelina says, “and Mariane and I got on really well as women, and we’ve since become really great friends, and our kids have become friends.” And in A Mighty Heart, they joined forces on a movie that, far from bemoaning the fact that some people are worse than others, celebrates the fact that some people are just better.

A couple notes:

1. That was copied straight from the magazine, long sentences and one block paragraph intact.

2. In the Glamour article, Mariane Pearl indicates that she initiated the friendship with Angelina. They became friends first, and then things moved forward on the movie.

So, after reading this account, what do you think?

Personally, I’m kind of shocked that the movie was going to be a Jennifer Aniston vehicle. I think that blows my mind. What were they going to do with her to transform her into Mariane Pearl?

On a gossipy note, that kind of blows for Jennifer Aniston – Angelina got her man AND her film!

I also wonder how Mariane Pearl self-identifies. I find it interesting that no one of color was tapped to play her – even though this would have been a no-brainer choice based on looks for Halle Berry or Thandie Newton or maybe a new undiscovered actress. I am not sure how much control Pearl had over the process initially, but she did recommend Angelina for the role. Did she just want someone she knew and trusted to portray her correctly? Or is there something more behind this?

What do you think? Regular readers, does this change your opinions expressed in the comments on the previous threads?

Race as disability: an update on fertility clinic mixup case

by guest contributor Kay Olson, originally published at The Gimp Parade

Back in March the story of the Andrews family of Long Island came to public attention. The NY Daily News announced “What a mess, baby: Parents say fertility clinic botched in-vitro & girl’s got the wrong dad“.

[Note from Carmen: Racialicious covered it too.]

The story came to public notice in March because a judge ruled the couple can precede with their medical malpractice lawsuit but disallowed the claims of mental suffering — the parents’ suffering and baby Jessica’s suffering for being a different race than her parents. There’s a lot to unpack here and The Nation‘s Patricia Williams took a stab at it:

What’s distinctive about the Andrews case is that the parents… tried to cite… Jessica’s pain and suffering for having to endure life as a black person. The Andrewses expressed concern that Jessica “may be subjected to physical and emotional illness as a result of not being the same race as her parents and siblings.” They are “distressed” that she is “not even the same race, nationality, color…as they are.” They describe Jessica’s conception as a “mishap” so “unimaginable” that they have not told many of their relatives. (Telling the tabloids all about it must have come easier.) “We fear that our daughter will be the object of scorn and ridicule by other children,” the couple said, because Jessica has “characteristics more typical of African or African-American descent.” So “while we love Baby Jessica as our own, we are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her…each and every time we appear in public.”

Since the claim of mental distress of their child hinges on appearance and public perceptions of skin color, Williams comments on the family’s photo:

The picture underscores the embedded cultural oddities of this case, the invisibly shifting boundaries of how we see race, extend intimacy, name “difference.” According to the Post, Mrs. Andrews is “Hispanic” and apparently, by the paper’s calculations, one Hispanic woman plus one white man equals “a white pair.” The mother is “a light-skinned native of the Dominican Republic,” seeming to indicate that while she may not be “white,” she’s also not “black.” Each narrative implies that if the correct sperm had been used, the Andrewses would have been guaranteed a lighter-skinned child. But as most Dominicans trace their heritage to some mixture of African slaves, indigenous islanders and European settlers, and as dark skin color is a dominant trait, it could be that the true sperm donor is as “white” as Mr. Andrews. But that possibility is exiled from the word boxes that contain this child. Not only is Jessica viewed as being of a race apart from either of her parents; she is even designated a different nationality–this latter most startling for its blood-line configuration of citizenship itself.

Paul Butler at BlackProf discusses the race issue as well.

If I understand the legal situation correctly, the parents’ claim of mental suffering is essentially a “wrongful conception” or “wrongful birth” claim and their suit on behalf of Baby Jessica’s mental suffering is a “wrongful life” claim. New York state, where the case resides, has precedence in these situations, which Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam cited in her ruling. Regarding the “wrongful birth” claim: Continue reading

Multiracial activist Ramona Douglass passed away

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Wow. I just read about it in the Mavin newsletter.

I never met Ramona Douglass, but I know that she was one of the OG’s of the multiracial movement and was one the people who played a crucial role in securing the “check one or more” option on the Census forms.

If any of you would like to share your thoughts or memories, we’d love to hear about them.

From Mavin:

MAVIN Foundation board and staff extend our condolences to the family and friends of Ramona E. Douglass who passed away last week. Ms. Douglass was a civil rights activist for nearly three decades. She was one of the most prominent figures in the multiracial movement in America since its inception. As a U.S. Department of Commerce federal appointee to the 2000 Census Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., beginning in 1995, she consistently represented multiracial community interests before Congress, the national media, and the Executive Office of the President.

Ms. Douglass was a co-founder of the Association of MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA) and member of the board of directions since its founding in 1988, serving in the capacities of vice president (1988-1994), president (1994-1999), director of media and public relations (2000-2005), and member of the Advisory Council until her death. She authored articles on the mixed race experience, including “The Evolution of the Multiracial Movement,” the second chapter of MAVIN Foundation’s Multiracial Child Resource Book.

She was a senior sales manager and corporate trainer for a medical manufacturing company in California’s San Fernando Valley.

MAVIN Foundation received a message from a friend of Ms. Douglass, reminding us that her deep commitment to working across difference and division to do what was best for mixed heritage people and families was perhaps, the most inspiring part of her impressive legacy.

Why the word “mutt” makes me wince

by Racialicious guest contributor Luke Lee

“Who’s doggy’s daddy? A DNA test can determine the breeds that make your mutt”

Making its way to the very front page of Yahoo! on Monday night was a video and a news article about a DNA kit which, as the folks at Yahoo! so eloquently put it, is able to tell dog-owners the different breeds in their “mutt.”

Now, I realize that we’re talking about dogs here but the word “mutt” is one that makes me wince no matter what the context. And though the word, when talking about dogs, is in supposedly a completely canine context, I don’t think it’s in an entirely different context without any sort of implications of cultural attitudes that carry over to the ways in which our society sees and talks about mixed race folks.

The most glaring aspect of the word and it’s popular usage when it comes to dogs is that people, dog-owners just don’t know what the dog is which results in the “mutt” description. There’s nothing wrong with this because god knows that a lot of dog-owners don’t know what their dog is but at the same time, many dog-owners do know very well. “Mutt,” to me, implies very much a sort of hairbrained “I don’t know. It’s just a bunch of everything thrown in there. I lost track” which is fine if people want to talk about their dogs like that, if people want to talk about themselves like that but its lackadaisical presence in the way people talk about race and in this case, dog breeds, fosters a sort of “don’t know so reduce it down” attitude. Don’t get me wrong, people should identify however they want to and if someone identifies and calls themselves a mutt “because it’s simple” then that’s great for them. However, as the word has the overriding suggestion of a lack of knowledge when it comes to one’s background, it’s not the most sensitive term to be flinging around at least when it comes to real people. I know this isn’t a perfect comparison, but it’d be like if I proudly told people I was “Oriental” and preferred the term over “Asian” or “Asian American.” If I did then that’s my business but it would inevitably give people the idea that it’s an OK term to use when describing Orientals Asian Americans. And also, I’m not saying that dog-owners who use the term are somehow insensitive and subtly racist when it comes to issues of race but rather the culture in our language perpetuates the idea that mutt=potpourri and if to be mixed is to be a mutt then to be a mutt means to not know what you are (and not care) which I don’t think is remotely the case for many, many mixed people. Continue reading

Apparently, I’m white!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I spotted this item in one of my ego feeds, and was fascinated to find that this blogger named Heloise has decided for me what my race is. Ah, it’s fun to be mixed isn’t it? Everybody’s opinion about your race matters, except your own.

#15 — May 28, 2007 @ 15:28PM — Heloise [URL]

Here’s her site. She is white and Chinese. But that makes her white, since she is not half black.

#27 — May 28, 2007 @ 19:20PM — Alec [URL]

RE: She is white and Chinese. But that makes her white, since she is not half black.

You’re joking here, right? I mean no one could seriously say that a person with Chinese ancestry is white. Is this some comical inversion of the old “one drop rule?”…

#29 — May 28, 2007 @ 22:13PM — Heloise [URL]

Who called them biracial? I did not. Biracial I thought always referred to black and white only.

A Eurasian is certainly white. Northern Indians or those whose language is traceable to European languages, can’t think of it now, are also “caucasian.” But the Brits are quick to call Indians the N-word.

…Northern Japanese are considered white. China is the root race for Caucasians, AmerIndians, Mexicans and Indians, DNA-wise. So it is a case of the root returning to the the progeny. She is certainly NOT black and that makes her white. That is the box she should check.

I have a sister who’s black, married a biracial man and their kids all have blonde hair and blue eyes and married whites. But they are black, and not biracial. Race is so complex, more than people know. The role of the biracial is that a person cannot change from one race to another when they reincarnate without going through a mixed race life first. That’s my conclusion.

But I found that Anglo Saxons think that anyone who is not strictly Anglo is not white. So where does that leave Mediterraneans? I go by the Anthropological definitions of race.

Heloise

Michelle Obama, feminism and the strong black woman

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’ve been following the media’s handling of race in its coverage of Barack Obama’s presidential bid very closely over the last few months. But right now I’m particularly riveted by the media coverage of his wife, Michelle Obama. Race, gender, and feminism are intersecting in fascinating ways. Here are some highlights.

As my fellow BlogHer Contributing Editor Laina Dawes wrote a few weeks back, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has criticized Michelle Obama’s light-hearted comments about her husband being “just a man” and not knowing how to put his socks in the laundry. Dowd felt that these remarks were “emasculating”:

Many people I talked to afterward found Michelle wondrous. But others worried that her chiding was emasculating, casting her husband – under fire for lacking experience – as an undisciplined child.

Just a few days ago, Michelle Obama resigned from her high-powered job as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals to focus on her husband’s presidential campaign.

Debra Dickerson, writing for Salon, declared that she is “in a feminist fury” about it:

Just as we watch curvy, healthy-looking singers and actresses like Lindsay Lohan become anorexic too-blonde hoochies before our very eyes, so we’re now in danger of having to watch the political version of that process: Any day now, Michelle Obama’s handlers will have her glued into one of those Sunday-go-to-meeting Baptist grandma crown hats while smiling vapidly for hours at a time. When, of course, she’s not staring moonstruck, à la Nancy Reagan, at her moon doggie god-husband who’s not one bit smarter than she is.

In response to Dickerson’s article, the new Gawker Media blog Jezebel (worst name ever, by the way) declared that Michelle’s “weird passive-aggressive comments” can only be explained by one thing: Barack obviously cheated on her:

…when Michelle Obama says stuff like “someday maybe he’ll deserve all the attention” or “he’s just a man” or calls him “the brother” even when she knows it makes the white folks uneasy is pretty simple: “The brother” fucked up! It wasn’t Gennifer or even Monica; it was probably just some one-night fling…

Mrs J, writing at Our Kind of Parenting, points out the Jezebel bloggers’ embarrassing cluelessness when it comes to African-American vernacular:

For the record, even if it makes white people uncomfortable, calling someone “the brother” (even if it is one’s husband) is not a diss. Especially when, in context, it is to say “The brother is smart”, as Mrs.O actually did recently (to an all black crowd)… This is a serious presidential candidate we’re talking about, ladies, not you’re effing ex-boyfriend. Save the cheap shots for someone else.

The Coup Magazine blog analyzes reactions to Michelle Obama in relation to the “Strong Black Woman (SBW) syndrome” and points out that Michelle is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t:

She can’t be funny. She probably shouldn’t work. After all, if she wants to counter the SBW stereotype and make her husband appear to be in charge, she cannot have a career. But when she quits her job, her motivation and commitment are called into question, and she risks losing credibility in the eyes of feminists. She can never have a hair out of place, appear aggressive, or ever be shown working out (one of her favorite activities), lest she characterized by someone as a “nappy headed ho.” In light of this constant and very public criticism, Michelle Obama can never quite be herself without being stereotyped as the aforementioned SBWa categorization that could potentially destroy her husband’s presidential campaign.

And finally, Malena Amusa, writing for Racewire, suggests that Michelle is integral to Barack Obama’s racial authenticity:

Her presentation is a well-engineered counter to Barack’s Black masculinity that has been attacked for being diluted. Michelle proves Barack’s Black authenticity by her being so home-grown, down-home, and straight-up on the issues. Further, if Barack had said some of the things Michelle has, he’d be lumped under the Black nationalist umbrella held up by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, and so many white people probably wouldn’t like him as much.

A Daycare Called Cuba: Iberia Ad More Than “Sexist”

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine

“It was completely trivial” said a spokeswoman for Iberia Airlines’ new ad. I suppose that should be expected, but it never ceases to amaze me that some people consider the degradation of historically oppressed groups as “trivial,” “fun,” or “just a joke.” Maybe that’s because our society has a history of accepting stereotypes as truths, so veiling them in humor is its feeble attempt to disguise the simple fact that it can’t distinguish between one or the other. It may also be a result of the belief some hold that we are all equals and treated fairly. If this condition of equality is a given, then debasing one group or another is not expected to cause harm, embarrassment, or any real long-term affects. Maybe Spain’s national airline felt that they were engaging in harmless fun, simply teasing their colonial little brother Cuba, but not everyone shared Iberia’s interpretation. Ruben Sanchez, a spokesperson for Facua, a Spanish consumer rights group, found the commercial to be sexist and generally offensive to Cubans. Facua called for the advertisement, which is part of a set of commercials for Iberia’s website, to be pulled. Iberia complied. They apologized, stating that the ad was not meant to offend anyone, and removed it from television on May 16th. But considering that someone had thought up the commercial and allowed it to air in the first place, the damage had already been done.

When I saw the ad for the first time, I thought beyond sexism. Before me was a representation of women of African descent that has somehow lasted for more than three centuries. I saw an animated articulation of the remnants of European colonial dominance over a Caribbean nation and its women. There was so much to take in from such a short clip that I wanted to slow down and think about it in parts. I watched the video again, this time in silence. After muting the volume, I began to mentally catalogue the images I saw. Before the clip commenced, a tableau appeared of a fair-skinned baby in a rocking chair surrounded by two brown-skinned, dark haired, large lipped women frozen mid-dance, holding maracas and wearing bikini tops with Daisy Duke cutoff shorts. Once the video unfolded, it seemed. . . fairly harmless, but three things stood out to me:

1. The color contrast between the baby and his adult playmates.
Both women featured in the commercial have brown skin, one a shade slightly darker than the other, and the men who provide musical accompaniment for the commercial are also varying shades of brown, from light to dark. This contrast is common in tourism advertisements, particularly those in Europe and the United States (with the exception of the recent Bahamas vacation ads). The tourist is almost always white and the “natives” are always brown, black, or yellow. Last time I checked, people of color also go on vacation, but maybe advertising executives don’t want to confuse the consumer audience by featuring them as tourists alongside people who look just like them. Funny enough, this never seems to be a problem in white-on-white ads encouraging people to go to European countries. Continue reading