Purple Boots, Silver Stars … and White ParentsBy FRANK LIGTVOETPublished: October 13, 2013
“WHEN I wear my cap backwards, don’t copy me,” our 8-year-old son says to his 7-year-old sister. “O.K.,” she answers, “I will put it on sideways.”Enlarge This Image Joohee YoonConnect With Us on TwitterFor Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.Readers’ CommentsReaders shared their thoughts on this article.
Recently our African-American daughter, Rosa, had gone with an older black friend to Fulton Mall, a crowded commercial area in our Brooklyn neighborhood, where the shoppers are mostly black. Fulton Mall is not only about shopping, it’s also a place to flirt, talk, laugh and argue, and to listen in passing to gospel, soul, hip-hop and R & B.Rosa had seen some purple canvas boots with silver stars and lost herself in an all-consuming desire to have them. Immediately. I bought them, a bit later. A day later. And to be “fair,” I bought our son, Joshua, who is also African-American, a pair of black and yellow basketball shorts. Pretty cool as well.The next day they want to show off their new stuff and, somewhat to my surprise, they decide to do so at Fulton Mall. I am their white adoptive dad, and by now, at their age, they see the racial difference between us clearly and are not always comfortable with it in public. But they know they are too young to go alone to the mall. Before we leave, Rosa, who had always seemed indifferent to fashion, changes into tight jeans and a black short-sleeve T-shirt. Joshua twists his head to see how he looks from behind. He pushes his new shorts a bit lower over his hips, but doesn’t dare to go all the way saggy. And then — after they have their cap conversation — we go.They walk ahead. I am kept at a distance, a distance that grows as we get closer to the mall. I respect that; I grin and play stranger. (click link below to read rest of article)
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — In a school auditorium filled with laughing students, actresses Luz Bautista Matos and Clara Morel threw themselves into acting out a fairy tale complete with a princess, a hero and acts of derring-do.
Morel had wrapped a white plastic sheet around her multi-colored blouse, while Bautista donned a brown paper bag over her blue tights. The two black actresses wore their hair free and natural, decorated only with single pink flowers.
“Yes, you’re a princess,” said Bautista to Morel, who fretted that she didn’t look like a traditional princess with her dark complexion and hair. Bautista then turned to a young girl sitting in the front row, who shared the same African-descended features as both actresses. “And you too,” Morel said as the child smiled back at her.
The theater group Wonderful Tree has visited schools all over Santo Domingo and some in the countryside to spread the word among black children that their features and heritage should be a source of pride. That message, though simple, has been nothing less than startling in this Caribbean country, where 80 percent of people are classified as mulattos, meaning they have mixed black-white ancestry, but where many still consider being labeled black an offense.
Wonderful Tree represents a larger cultural movement that’s working to combat the country’s historic bias through arts and education. The Dominican choreographer Awilda Polanco runs a contemporary dance company that’s trying to rescue Afro-Caribbean traditions, while the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo has been training primary school teachers to respect and celebrate their students’ African heritage, including through skits that young children can more easily understand.
It’s a bid to transform a color-obsessed society where a majority of the country’s 10 million people choose to identify themselves as “Indio” — or “Indian” — on government documents despite their black roots, and many reject afros in favor of closely cropped hair or sleek blowouts. Public schools for decades even prohibited students from attending classes with their hair loose or in a natural frizz.
Such hair, in fact, is called “bad hair” in the local Spanish lexicon while straightened hair is “good hair.”
The Dominican population “has tried to disconnect itself from its African roots to the point where they’ve constituted a community that’s mostly mixed” but calls itself “indios,” wrote historian Frank Moya Ponsin in the prologue of the book “Good Hair, Bad Hair.”
In her school presentations, Morel flaunts her own natural looks as a point of pride. At one point in the play, Morel clutches a mask featuring straight black hair only to pull it away and reveal her dark brown kinky curls.
“This should be a source of pride because your color, your skin, your hair is an inheritance,” Morel told the children at the Albergue Educativo Infantil school in the town of Moca. “It’s the legacy of your parents, it’s the legacy of your grandparents.”
Morel said students have long been bullied and even attacked for their hair, while public schools have re-enforced the prejudice by cracking down on children sporting natural African hair, defending the measures as prevention against lice outbreaks.
“If it was only a health issue, it’d be fine, but children think there’s something bad about their features,” Morel said.
Maria Cosme, a Santo Domingo housewife, recalled the day she sent her young daughter to school with loose curly hair and a ribbon around her head. Teachers quickly tied up her daughter’s hair and warned it should remain that way if she wanted to attend classes, Cosme recalled.
“It’s a matter of racism, but also protocol,” said Cosme, who has straightened her daughter’s hair since age 4. She is now 7 years old.
Elizabeth Veloz, a graphic designer who always wore her hair natural, said the human resources director of her former company criticized her hair shortly before she was fired.
“He told me that curly hair is not proper hair, that it’s beach hair,” she said. “But the worst part is that he’s black, like me, and he cuts his hair really short because it’s kinky.”
Not everyone sees the hair issue in racial terms.
Hair stylist Yoly Reyes said she’s been relaxing her hair since she was 15.
“I am black and that will not change if I straighten my hair. But I think I look prettier with straight hair,” she said. “When have you ever seen (President Barack) Obama’s wife with kinky hair? I don’t think she straightens it to stop being black.”
Women in the Dominican Republic spend an estimated 12 percent of their household budgets on hair salons and treatments, according to “Good Hair, Bad Hair,” which included an economic and anthropological study of Dominican beauty salons.
Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who oversaw the killing of some 17,000 Haitians in 1937 in an effort to expel them from the Dominican Republic, was himself a mulatto who used makeup to make his face lighter.
Trujillo was the first to include the term “Indio” in official documents, said historian Emilio Cordero Michel.
Yet U.N. officials noted in a 2013 report that “Indian” identifiers don’t accurately reflect the country’s ethnicity and expressed concern about the country’s denial of racism. The government’s migration director, Jose Ricardo Taveras, has repeated such denials, insisting any racism is isolated.
It’s a claim that many reject, including Desiree del Rosario, coordinator of the Center for Gender Studies who runs the technological institute’s teacher training program.
Del Rosario said the country’s racism was tied to its troubled relationship with neighboring Haiti, where the population is darker-complexioned and where African culture holds a prominent place in society. Del Rosario summed up the common Dominican mentality as “The Haitians are black, and we, white.”
For Bautista and Morel, however, change is coming one child at a time. After one typically spirited, even goofy show, a dark-complexioned boy with his hair shaved close to his scalp approached Morel.
“I want to be part of your group,” the boy told the two women. “I want to be an Afro-descendent.”
Posted by For Harriet | Labels: graduate school, higher education, racism
by Nana Brantuo
Sitting in class after a long day of teaching and data entry, my mind drifted away for the discussion at hand. Events from the day played over and over in my head. Earlier in the day, the class I TA reviewed Donald Murray’s case against the University of Maryland (Pearson v. Murray, 1936). Out of nowhere, he raised his hand, Mr. White Privilege/Future Leader of America. Without a care in the world, he attempted justifying segregation – referring to it as “unfortunate” but necessary to maintain financial sponsors of the institution (some of his white peers nodding their heads in agreement). By the time my evening course began, I was still upset. Was this the life I planned on, teaching privileged white kids who had no interest in the lives of experiences of people of color? I wasn’t interested in hearing my classmates reflect on years of teaching Black and Brown children (stories that I label as The White Savior Chronicles). I was fed up with their eyes staring at me when discussions shifted to diversity and equity, sorry attempts at soliciting the Black woman to speak. Familiar feelings of doubt and depression consumed me and quickly shifted to feelings of sadness.
What was I doing here? Why does it feel as though I have to build a case, a defense for the education of Black and Brown children in a country that prides itself on democracy, liberty, and justice? Instead of bottling in these feelings, I turned to social media to disclose my feelings. My status read, “Are periods of sadness common among graduate students along with feelings of doubt?” After a few minutes I began seeing responses.
“I thought I was the only one.”
“Yes, but keep moving…”
“Yes, You have to find balance otherwise this mess will consume you…”
I was not alone. I was not the only one. This outpour of understanding and support helped me realize how unhealthy the graduate school process can be without proper self-care, self-love, and foresight for the future ahead. I had been avoiding address the stress and anxiety that had consumed me, sometimes to the point of physical illness. I would have anxiety attacks in private, during lunch breaks, even once during a class. At one point, my hair was thinning out. I used happy hour as a way of drinking my problems away. Why? Because I didn’t think of them as real problems with real consequences if not handled properly.
“All of the sacrifices my family and ancestors have made are much greater than these anxiety attacks.”
“Snap out of this, Black people don’t have anxiety attacks. Black people don’t get depressed.”
“You can’t let them see you sweat. You can’t let these white people see you sweat.”
These were the things I would tell myself when the pressure of graduate school began consuming me. I held on so strongly to my upbringing of sucking it up and moving along that I allowed my emotional and physical health to deteriorate. Now, I am taking the time to say, “Enough is enough!” We must take the time to address and nurture our emotional health in order to fight the battles ahead. The experiences of Black graduate students (POC graduate students in general) are filled with anxiety, stress, anger, depression, and sadness. Amid endless pages of readings, deadlines that never end, comprehensive exams, and upcoming thesis/dissertation proposals and defenses, our emotional health can take a turn for the worst. We constantly have to defend our spaces, our causes, and our communities in academic spaces that resist diversity. We push ourselves to the limit for the degrees and certifications but is that the ultimate goal? Our work and our sacrifices are not for these institutions, professors, or classmates but rather for the communities we love and our people. We must take care of ourselves holistically as we make our way through these academic journeys. Forming support groups, going to therapy, and finding outlets (i.e. writing, painting, exercising) are three among numerous steps towards creating balance in lives that are often thrown off of equilibrium by classes, coursework, and academic writing.
Our growth and increased understanding of the connection between physical, mental, and emotional health is essential to developing and uplifting our communities. Everyday I pull from the strength of generations that have come before to push on in my journey. I remind myself that I’m working for the youth, ensuring that they will have access to high quality education that is centered on their social and academic growth. I speak with close friends and trusted advisors when I feel myself consumed by feelings of doubt. I remind myself that I am the child of a race that has come so far and will continue moving forward.
Black, Poor, and Woman in Higher Education: What I Learned From Graduate School
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Students called n word, chased through woods on field tripPosted: Sep 19, 2013 12:42 PM CESTUpdated: Sep 19, 2013 11:06 PM CESTBy Steven Yablonski, Managing Editor – emailBy Karen Lee – email HARTFORD, CT WFSB -Imagine sending your child on a class trip, then finding out she and her classmates were called the “n” word and chased through the woods. It was part of a slavery re-enactment that some parents said crossed the line.Additional LinksParents explain controversial field tripOne couple said their 12-year-old daughter came home from the field trip with horror stories, and now theyve filed a complaint against the school district.”I ask that you imagine these phrases being yelled at our 12-year-old child and their friends,” parent Sandra Baker said at a Hartford School Board meeting. “Bring those n-word to the house over there. N-word if you can read, theres a problem. Dumb, dark-skinned n-word. How dare you look at me?”Baker said screaming that at children on a field trip is abuse.”They intentionally terrorized them and abused them on this field trip,” she said.Sandra Baker and her husband James Baker have been on a 10-month fight with the Hartford School District that theyve now taken to the school board.It started during the past school year when their daughter was a seventh-grader at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. She and her classmates went on a four-day trip to the Natures Classroom in Charlton, MA.On the third night, there was a slavery re-enactment that Sandra Baker said none of the parents knew about.James Baker shared his daughters experiences with the Hartford School Board.”The instructor told me if I were to run, they would whip me until I bled on the floor and then either cut my Achilles so I couldnt run again, or hang me,” he told the school board.They pretended to be on a slave ship.They pretended to pick cotton.They pretended their instructors were their masters.The Bakers said the program told kids they didnt have to participate in the Underground Railroad skit, but were only told about the re-enactment 30 minutes before it began.”The fact that they used the n word. I mean, how dare you say that to my child and call it an educational experience. How dare you say that to any child.” Sandra Baker said.She said she cant believe the school has been taking part in the trip for years and never saw a problem with it. Shes filed complaints with the state Department of Education, Human Rights Commission and offices of civil rights.”Its a town of people of color,” she said. “Really. I mean, Hartford. You could not see something was wrong with this?”The Bakers said they pulled their daughter out of the Hartford School District.Channel 3 Eyewitness News reached out to the Natures Classroom and hasnt heard back.Copyright 2013 WFSB Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. by Taboola
Colorism – Skin Color and Intra-Racial Issues Among African-Americans
Color consciousness has been a subject that has lingered just beneath the surface of intra-racial issues among African-Americans for years. Color consciousness, or “colorism” as it is often referred to, is a phenomenon in which persons of the same race discriminate against one another based on the lightness or darkness of one’s skin. Issues with race identity have divided African-Americans in several areas including education, social status and perceived beauty. The list below serves as a sampling of several voices that have contributed their opinions on this troubling topic through literature and film.
Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man. Charles Barkley. 2006. E184 .A1 B2444 2005
Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey through the Color Complex. Marita Golden. 2004. E185.86 .G625 2003
The Future of the Race. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cornel West. 1996. E185.86.G3771996
Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class. Lawrence Graham. 1999. E185.86 .G644 1999
Skin Color Recognition, Preference, and Identification in Interracial Children: A Comparative Study. Wayne West Gunthrope. 1998.
An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American Education, Income, and Occupation. Ronald E. Hall. 2005.
Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation. Michael D. Harris 2003. N8232 .H37 2003Q
Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone Margaret L. Hunter. 2005.
Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Walter Johnson. 1999. F379 .N59 N4 1999
The Paper Bag Principle: Class, Colorism and Rumor and the case of Black Washington DC. Audrey Elisa Kerr. 2007. E185.93.D6K47 2007
Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousness in African America, Obiagele Lake. 2003.
The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color among African Americans Kathy Russell, Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall. 1992. E185.625 .A78 1992
Skin Deep. Kathleen Cross. 1999
The Bluest Eye. Toni Morrison. 1970
Other People’s Skin. Tracy Price-Thompson. 2007
Passin’. Karen E. Quinones-Miller. 2008
The Human Stain. Philip Roth. 2000
The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life. Wallace Thurman. 1996
A Girl Like Me. Directed by Kiri Davis. 2005. Available for viewing online at Media That Matters
A Question of color. Directed by Kathe Sandler.1992. VIDEOTAPE; Sights and Sounds Department
Imitation of Life. Directed by John M. Stahl/Doulas Sirk. 2004. DVD; Sights and Sounds Department
One Drop Rule. Directed by James Banks. 2001.
School Daze. directed by Spike Lee. 1988. DVD; Sights and Sounds Department
The African American cinema II: The scar of shame. 1923, Sissle and Blake. 1926. VIDEOTAPE; Sights and Sounds Department
The Human Stain. Directed by Robert Benton. 2004. DVD; Sights and Sounds Department
Color Struck: A Play in Four Scenes. Zora Neale Hurston.1925. Reprinted 1994. PS153.N5.P671994
Additional Resources (Journal Articles)
Link to Word Document: African Americans and Racial Identity
To access, visit the Pratt Library Website at Databases. A Pratt Library card number may be required to access databases outside of the library.
African American Experience
The African American Experience, part of the American Mosaic Online Reference Family, provides user friendly electronic access to over 400 reference works covering African American scholarship from earliest times to present day. This database includes slave narratives and primary documents as well as audio clips, music and interviews with notable African Americans.
African American History and Culture
This electronic encyclopedia includes thousands of entries covering the entire breadth of African-American history—from African beginnings through the slave trade and the Civil Rights Movement to the present.
If you would like to know more about this subject, email us through our Ask-A-Librarian service, call the African American Department at 410-361-9287, or mail your questions to:
Therapy and Racial Trauma A friend forwarded me a link yesterday from Psychology Today yesterday regarding minorities and mental health treatment. The article discusses the mistreatment of minority patients in the treatment of race based traumas. I know all too well about this kind of thing as the most difficult step in getting help for mental illness can be findinga therapist who understands the kind of trauma that you are dealing with . In the last seven years I have been through at least four of them and I am still on the hunt here in DC to find someone that can understand the issues that I am dealing with and how to help. I am constantly working in therapy to help with my self esteem issues and I remember going to a therapist in 2008 and when we began to discuss my childhood, I remember the therapist asking me, why would I feel discriminated against by other African Americans when they were indeed African Americans. She clearly had not heard of colorism, so that was my second and last visit to her because I need a therapist that at least has an inkling of what I am talking about. As a community, we are not known for getting help for mental illness, and I am afraid that therapist that do not take race based traumas seriously, will further deter people from getting the help that they need. via Therapy and Racial Trauma | My Life Uncensored.
Autoethnography is a form of autobiography, self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings. It differs from ethnography —a qualitative research method in which a researcher uses participant observation and interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of a group’s culture— in that autoethnography focuses on the writer’s subjective experience rather than, or in interaction with, the beliefs and practices of others. As a form of self-reflective writing, autoethnography is widely used in performance studies and English.
Autoethnography as a qualitative research methodEdit
According to Maréchal (2010), “autoethnography is a form or method of research that involves self-observation and reflexive investigation in the context of ethnographic field work and writing” (p. 43). Another well-known autoethnographer, Carolyn Ellis (2004) defines it as “research, writing, story, and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political” (p. xix). However, it is not easy to reach a consensus on the term’s definition. For instance, in the 1970s, autoethnography was more narrowly defined as “insider ethnography,” referring to studies of the (culture of) a group of which the researcher is a member (Hayano, 1979). Nowadays, however, as Ellingson and Ellis (2008) point out, “the meanings and applications of autoethnography have evolved in a manner that makes precise definition difficult” (p. 449).
Autoethnography differs from ethnography, a social research method employed by anthropologists and sociologists, in that it embraces and foregrounds the researcher’s subjectivity rather than attempting to limit it, as in empirical research. While ethnography tends to be understood as a qualitative method in the ‘social sciences’ that describes human social phenomena based on fieldwork, autoethnographers are themselves the primary participant/subject of the research in the process of writing personal stories and narratives. Autoethnography “as a form of ethnography,” Ellis (2004) writes, is “part auto or self and part ethno or culture” (p. 31) and “something different from both of them, greater than its parts” (p. 32). In other words, as Ellingson and Ellis (2008) put it, “whether we call a work an autoethnography or an ethnography depends as much on the claims made by authors as anything else” (p. 449).
Real Talk: Does Battling a Stereotype Wear You Out?
By Demetria L. Lucas
Real Talk: Does Battling a Stereotype Wear You Out?
Earlier this week, I stumbled across another thought-provoking article on Clutch that made me go “hmmm.” In “Sorry to Disappoint You, But I’m Not an Angry Black Woman,” Shayla Pierce wrote about the ways she’s been unduly stereotyped as being, you know, angry. She detailed an experience at a restaurant where she was dissatisfied with her food, pointed out the issue and politely asked for a new item.
“I expected the waiter to blush with embarrassment, or to apologize or even to send for the manager so he can comp my meal,” Pierce wrote. “Instead, when I looked back at the waiter, his eyes were wide with fear, like a deer’s seconds before a car collides into it.”
Through the lens of his own family’s experience,
the author explores why West Indians and American
blacks are perceived differently.
My cousin Rosie and her husband, Noel, live in a two-bedroom bungalow on Argyle Avenue, in Uniondale, on the west end of Long Island. When they came to America, twelve years ago, they lived in a basement apartment a dozen or so blocks away, next to their church. At the time, they were both taking classes at the New York Institute of Technology, which was right nearby. But after they graduated, and Rosie got a job managing a fast-food place and Noel got a job in asbestos removal, they managed to save a little money and bought the house on Argyle Avenue.
From the outside, their home looks fairly plain. It’s in a part of Uniondale that has a lot of tract housing from just after the war, and most of the houses are alike–squat and square, with aluminum siding, maybe a dormer window in the attic, and a small patch of lawn out front. But there is a beautiful park down the street, the public schools are supposed to be good, and Rosie and Noel have built a new garage and renovated the basement. Now that Noel has started his own business, as an environmental engineer, he has his office down there–Suite 2B, it says on his stationery–and every morning he puts on his tie and goes down the stairs to make calls and work on the computer. If Noel’s business takes off, Rosie says, she would like to move to a bigger house, in Garden City, which is one town over. She says this even though Garden City is mostly white. In fact, when she told one of her girlfriends, a black American, about this idea, her friend said that she was crazy–that Garden City was no place for a black person. But that is just the point. Rosie and Noel are from Jamaica. They don’t consider themselves black at all.
This doesn’t mean that my cousins haven’t sometimes been lumped together with American blacks. Noel had a job once removing asbestos at Kennedy Airport, and his boss there called him “nigger” and cut his hours. But Noel didn’t take it personally. That boss, he says, didn’t like women or Jews, either, or people with college degrees–or even himself, for that matter. Another time, Noel found out that a white guy working next to him in the same job and with the same qualifications was making ten thousand dollars a year more than he was. He quit the next day. Noel knows that racism is out there. It’s just that he doesn’t quite understand–or accept–the categories on which it depends.
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