‘Stunning Portraits of Mixed Race Families’?: Slate’s Human Zoo of Race Mongrelization

‘Stunning Portraits of Mixed Race Families’?: Slate’s Human Zoo of Race Mongrelization

We Are Respectable Negroes: Happy Non-Threatening Coloured Folks, Even in the Age of Obama
Wednesday, 2014-06-25

Chauncey DeVega, Editor and Founder

Am I the only person who found Slate.com’s photo essay “Stunning Portraits of Mixed Race Families” to be very problematic?

To my eyes, it contains and channels the echoes of race science and eugenics wrapped in a veneer of praise and curiosity for “unusual” and “fascinating” bodies.

Questions of race and representation were and remain central to the dynamics of the global color line. The ways in which certain types of people and bodies are visually represented through film, photographs, paintings, and other mediums reflect the dynamics of power.

Whose eyes are “we” seeing through? What assumptions are driving the Gaze? How are the bodies and people in visual images posed and positioned relative to one another? Who is included? What types of people and bodies are excluded?…

…The contemporary American fascination with “mixed race” and “biracial” identity is a reflection of changing demographics and globalization; it is also a surrender to and performance of a shallow type of faux cosmopolitanism.

Ironically, the race scientists of Nazi Germany and the United States, as well as the photographer Cyjo (whose work was featured in Slate’s essay) who fetishize and find something “stunning” or “interesting” about “mixed race” and/or “biracial” people (what are fictive identities, social constructs, as there is only one race, the human race) share some common assumptions.

One, that those types of “racial” identities are somehow new or novel. In fact, human history is a story of “miscegenation” and “interracial” intimacy. Two, that those types of bodies and individuals merit study and analysis because there is some connection, either implied or explicitly stated, between genes, color, culture, destiny, and personal, as well as national “character”…

Read the entire article here.

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