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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.

How to suggest news stories to Racialicious

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

As you’ve probably noticed, I publish a post (almost) every day with links to various articles and blog posts on topics related to race, racism and pop culture.

If you’d like to suggest a link, the best way to do it is through del.icio.us.

del.icio.us is a way to bookmark pages and keep your collection of bookmarks online, accessible from anywhere. But it’s also got some great ways to share your bookmarks with others.

If you already have a del.icio.us account, or if you’d consider signing up for one, you can simply tag a story that you want to submit to racialicious with the tag for:racialicious and it’ll show up automatically in my del.icio.us inbox.

The reason this is easier than email is that I actually use del.icio.us to automatically publish these links every morning. I bookmark things as the day goes on, and the following morning, those links I bookmarked get automatically published here as a post. That also means you can find all the articles we’ve ever linked to using this method on Racialicious’s del.icio.us page.

I really appreciate the fact that many of you email me your suggestions, but due to the volume of email I get, these have a tendency to get lost in the shuffle. Using del.icio.us is definitely the best way to go. Thanks everyone! :)

To learn more, check out this excellent beginner’s guide to using del.icio.us.

Book Review: Jabari Asim’s The N Word

by guest contributor Swerl, originally posted at Swerl

Pop quiz! Who said…

a) To be plain, I wish to get quit of Negroes…

b) I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in endowments both of body and mind.

c) I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race…

Answers?

a) George Washington (in a 1778 letter to his plantation manager)
b) Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)
c) Abraham Lincoln (1858)!!

These bon mots and more are revealed in Jabari Asim’s new(ish) book, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why. What Asim (syndicated columnist and deputy editor of the Washington Post Book World) has accomplished in this slender, powerful book, is a concise history of African-Americans… as told BY whites TO other whites.

Through the lens of the “N” word, from first recorded usage through today, Asim makes the persuasive case that whites could not deal with the dichotomy of being good, God-fearing men of noble purpose AND slave owners. Instead of abolishing slavery at the birth of the nation, our glorious founding fathers created a myth around those they had brutally imported from Africa to MORALLY justify the Africans’ enslavement. To do this, they created the “N—–”, and bent reality to fit their story. It helped the whites sleep at night AND get their cotton picked. Africans were not the same race as whites. They were animalistic in their joys, passions and fears. Because their pleasure was only base sexual gratification and their pain was “transitory”, there was no moral imperative to keep families intact, honor their history, allow them to keep their names or grant dignity to them in any way. Because they were “fearful” of freedom, and too stupid to be of use, slavery was, in fact, a COMPASSIONATE alternative to freedom.

Because they were not human, it didn’t matter if white men slept with black woman, but it was an affront for any lust-crazed Negro to sleep with a white woman.

Because they were simpleminded, they loved to dance and sing merrily while working 18 hour days.

But, because they were animalistic, they could turn mean and evil and needed to be put down.

W.E.B. Du Bois cleverly called this “racial folklore”, and insisted that its presence made the “color line”, as he called it, transcend simple economic exploitation. For example, while other ethnic minorities have been or are being exploited for their labor, it is unique to the black experience to have an identity manufactured by the dominant white society and then brutally and systemically imposed — even imprinted — onto them, the “…belief that somewhere between men and cattle, God created a tertium quid, and called it a Negro — a clownish, simple creature, at times even lovable within its limitations.”

In the subsequent pages, Asim traces the implementation of this “racial folklore” through American history, proving his point with devastating detail. Almost like a prosecutor, even if you have known all the facts, seeing them all pulled together in such a cogent way makes it clear to ANYONE that whites have tried to rewrite the reality of black America with the merciless, pernicious efficiency of Orwellian scope. “2+2=5″. Winston Smith needed not just repeat it, but BELIEVE it. Internalize it.

Slaves not willing to work in subhuman conditions? They’re lazy!
Slaves pretending to like whitefolk to get by? They’re jolly darkies!
Slaves try to run away because they don’t like being slaves? They’re aggressive, violent, predatory animals out to rape white women and kill white men!

Again, a quote by W.E.B. Du Bois sums it up perfectly. “Everything Negroes did was wrong. If they fought for freedom, they were beasts; if they did not fight, they were born slaves. If they cowered on the plantation, they loved slavery; if they ran away, they were loafers. If they sang, they were silly, if they scowled, they were impudent… And they were funny, funny — ridiculous baboons, aping men!” Continue reading

Martha Stewart, Playing with “Indian” Names?

by guest contributor BB, originally published at Brady Braves

Well, this was a rare moment: a story on Indianz.com involving Martha Stewart. She has a place (i.e., 153-acre estate purchased in 2000 for the trifling cost of $16 million) in Katonah, NY. Now, Stewart wants to trademark “Katonah” for some of her products. Never mind if Katonah residents (of the Village Improvement Society in Katonah) are not pleased. Never mind if today’s descendants of Chief Katonah of the Lenape Nation are not pleased. As reported by Jim Fitzgerald, AP, Diana Pearson, a Stewart spokesperson, says Stewart “seeks to honor the town and the hamlet by using the word `Katonah.’”

And I suppose the Hornell Brewing Company had “honor” in mind when it slapped the revered name Crazy Horse on malt liquor bottles in 1992. (Crazy Horse, says David Wilkins (Lumbee) in American Indian Politics (2001), “is remembered as a staunch Sioux nationalist who remained committed to his people throughout his short life. He never signed a treaty with the federal government, and he opposed the use of alcohol by his people” (229)). I suppose Liz Claiborne, fashion guru, also had “honor” in mind when her clothing company threaded Crazy Horse (and Cherokee) on tags. Although one of Stewart’s lawyers said that his client’s use of the name “will not stop Katonah residents – or anyone else – from using the name Katonah exactly as they always have,” what will happen? Likely, Katonah becomes synonymous with Martha Stewart products (much to Stewart’s delight, the BBB imagines), not with Lenape People, not with descendants of Katonah, not with respect for Indigenous Peoples, not with honor for Katonah, New York, residents. To Ms. Stewart and Ms. Stewart followers: One’s intentions do not always match the effects.

As said before in “Indian” mascot debates and other contested arenas, it is difficult to honor those who are not honored, including Autumn Scott (Ramapough Lenape), the New Jersey State Commission on Indian Affairs co-chair. “We trust,” Scott explains, “that Martha Stewart intended no malice in seeking to have her corporation trademark the name of one of our great ancestral leaders, but for her to say she is doing so to honor him and our tribe is absurd, especially when it is being done solely for profit.” Although Stewart is talking of honoring the town, a place of refuge for her, the town is named after the Lenape (Delaware) leader. Stewart, then, would do well to address certain Native People’s warranted concerns. So far, she has greeted them with silence.

Stewart may not talk, but we Brady Braves can. Thoughts of righteous anger can be sent to television@marthastewart.com (address available at www.marthastewart.com, more specifically this page) A customer service number available at www.marthastewartstore.com is 1-800-357-7060.

Addicted to Race 71: No Homo, Black Marriage

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

addicted to raceA brand-new episode (No. 71) of Addicted to Race is out! Addicted to Race is New Demographic’s weekly podcast about America’s obsession with race.

Carmen and Dumi discuss the “no homo” phenomenon, as well as BET’s recent episode of “Meet the Faith,” which focused on the state of black marriage.

Guest co-host L’Heureux Lewis, who is also known as Dumi, just completed his PhD in Sociology and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. A native of West Haven, CT he received a Bachelor’s from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. In the fall, he will begin as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York. His research interests are wide ranging and he has studied racial identity, multiraciality in the color blind era, mental health functioning, racial discrimination, and educational inequality. Dumi also blogs at BlackatMichigan.com.

Articles and web sites mentioned in this episode:

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Media fixates on “quiet riot,” ignores Obama’s urban agenda

by guest contributor rikyrah, originally published at Jack and Jill Politics

Senator Obama was in Hampton, VA last week at the Hampton University’s Annual Minister’s Conference.

Barack Obama gave a MAJOR POLICY speech …did you know that? If you don’t know, I’m not surprised, because of how the ‘Mainstream’ Media did NOT report on the substance of the speech – AT ALL.

Now, for all you folks who don’t think that Obama’s running TWO campaigns out there……

This the Mainstream Media’s Account of Obama’s speech.

Obama Warns of ‘Quiet Riot’ Among Blacks
By BOB LEWIS
AP
HAMPTON, Va. (June 5) – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Tuesday that the Bush administration has done nothing to defuse a “quiet riot” among blacks that threatens to erupt just as riots in Los Angeles did 15 years ago.

The first-term Illinois senator said that with black people from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast still displaced 20 months after Hurricane Katrina , frustration and resentments are building explosively as they did before the 1992 riots.

“This administration was colorblind in its incompetence,” Obama said at a conference of black clergy, “but the poverty and the hopelessness was there long before the hurricane .

“All the hurricane did was to pull the curtain back for all the world to see,” he said.

Obama’s attack on Bush got ovation after ovation from the nearly 8,000 people gathered in Hampton University’s Convocation Center, particularly when he denounced the Iraq war and noted that he had opposed it from the outset.

Repeatedly, he referred to the riots that erupted in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted four police officers of assault charges in the 1991 beating of Rodney King, a black motorist, after a high speed chase. Fifty-five people died and 2,000 were injured in several days of riots in the city’s black neighborhoods.

“Those ‘quiet riots’ that take place every day are born from the same place as the fires and the destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and the deaths,” Obama said. “They happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates. Despair takes hold and young people all across this country look at the way the world is and believe that things are never going to get any better.”

He argued that once a hurricane hits or a jury renders a not guilty verdict, “the frustration is there for all to see.”

Obama, who is bidding to become the first black president, took the stage after a succession of ministers repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet, singing, praying and swaying to music.

They just love to put RIOT with the Black man, don’t they? Continue reading

Riverdale Christian Academy celebrates graduation with a blackface party mocking slavery

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Wow. Now it’s not only college students playing with blackface, faculty and staff members are getting in on the act too. This Fresno, CA Christian school even played a game of “catch the runaway slave!” From Fresnobee.com:

Members of Fresno’s black community said they were stunned this week to see pictures of adults in blackface poking fun at slavery during a recent graduation celebration for Riverdale Christian Academy.

The photos, which were posted on the Internet shortly after the June 1 event, show staff and faculty of the small private Christian school dressed as slaves with captions describing activities at the party in Hanford.

“The slaves served lemonade — it was a riot,” read one caption beneath a photo of five women and a man at a lemonade stand. Each had dark face makeup and wore 19th century clothing.

“Someday we gonna be leavin’ when a workin’ day is done,” read another caption posted with a photo of three women holding gardening tools.

A third picture showed a white man in a Yankees jersey and top hat escorting another in blackface with the caption, “bringing home the runaway slave in the Senior skit.”

By now you know the drill with these blackface parties.

Step 1: Declare that you did not mean to offend anyone.

Step 2: Point to the fact that black people were at the party too, so obviously it wasn’t that racist!

Nice to see that Doug Spencer, the school’s principal, has been taking notes:

Spencer, who said he was sorry for the controversy, said his school, with a student body of 150, has “three or four” black students. One of those students attended the party. Spencer said that while he is willing to apologize to anyone offended by the skits, he has not apologized to the unnamed student.

“It was not offensive,” Spencer said. “And she hasn’t asked for an apology.”

Hat tip to Tate Hill at Urban Knowledge and Resist Racism

No homo… black male intimacy

by guest contributor Dumi Lewis, originally published at Black At Michigan

So for the past few years nearly every time I hear Black men nearing a point of emotional intimacy two words quickly have haunted the moment, “no homo.” Picture this Sicily… err, I mean, so picture this, you’ve mentored a brother for the past 5 years, talked him through some major life issues: college, divorce, depression, women, etc. and he’s about to take off for a far off land. He takes a moment to express his thanks for the love that you’ve showed him over the years and how you’ve improved his life and he punctuates his statement with “no homo.” Not only has it happened once, but it’s happened multiple times with the brothas that I’ve worked with. But the reason it urks me so much, is that so many of these brothas are the “good brothas”, the brothas who have attempted to push on issues of gender, inequality at large and sexuality… well maybe not so much the latter.

The “no homo” movement seems to have grown directly out of Hip-Hop’s obsession with hyper-masculinity. As Hip-Hop has pushed the masculine through performance of actions, be they violent or non-violent, the realm of intragender intimacy has consistently been silent. Now of course there are songs for my crew, my niggas, even back in the day my posse, but these songs fall far from carving out a space to discuss close relationships between Black men (except when the subject of the song is dead, then you can talk freely). But this is nothing new to our community, as Black men at large, and those embedded within the Hip-Hop generation.

Now to be clear, I don’t think Black men lack intimacy, I think we simply truncate it for the “sexuality safety.” To me sexuality safety is about the maintenance of an image of heterosexuality (meaning: I’m a guy, I mess with women); and a by extension a vehement rejection of homosexuality (meaning: I’m a guy, I’m not for that gay shit). They are two sides of the same coin in our music. While some are already chomping at the bit to say, not all of Hip-Hop is like this, let me take this moment to pre-emptively strike like GWB and douse some of your righteous indignation and remind you that many of our favorite rappers follow this logic. Nas, Common, Andre 3000, the list goes on. Just search through their catalogs, it’s there!

Hip-Hop’s response has been to dodge or turn a blind eye to homoeroticism, but sometimes it comes full frontal. While rumors about rappers being homosexual have long directed Hip-Hop (check out Marc Lamont Hill’s forthcoming book on more of this). In recent months, rumors have become specters. The Lil’ Wayne and Baby kiss started a firestorm, that I hoped would have lead to a different discussion of male intimacy, but lord knows that fire burned out as quickly as it went ablaze, leaving most people with the same ideas of equating black male intimacy with sexuality. In recent days T-Pain has gained significant attention regarding his comments about Ray J’s sex tape and endowment. After making multiple comments about penis size he attempts to absolve himself of homoerotic overtones by saying “no homo.” See, no harm, no foul. No way in hell. Most folks who read his comments and reacted offered up their own theories of the boundaries of masculinity and appropriate references to another man’s physique. The bottom line that could be taken from most comments that I could stomach was “a real man never even notices another man’s penis”, sure, right.

While the popular attention that Wayne and T-Pain garnered is important, it tells us little about how Black folks, and Black men in particular, understand the boundaries between intimacy and sexuality. I’m most concerned with the use of “no homo” when it comes to interpersonal intimacy. I know that we as Black men have historically bottled emotion, but punctuating our sharing with “no homo” is troubling. By using “no homo” are brothas saying the only men who share emotions are homosexual? Are brothas saying that sharing emotions will immediately lead to some form of sexual encounter? And more importantly, to myself I’ve asked and am asking, do I create an environment with my brothas where they think I’m so anti-gay that they need to qualify their emotions and distinguish them from sexuality?