Covering Multiracial America Requires Historical Perspective

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2012-11-18 18:33Z by Steven

Covering Multiracial America Requires Historical Perspective

Maynard Media Center on Structural Inequity
Maynard Institute

Nadra Kareem Nittle

Although people of mixed races have lived in the United States for centuries, authorities on multiracial identity say mainstream media continue to report on these people as if they are a new phenomenon.

In 1619, the first slaves were brought to Britain’s North American colonies. The following year, says Audrey Smedley, professor emerita of anthropology and African American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, the first “mulatto” child was born. Thus, mixed-race people have a long history in this country, disproving the notion often mentioned today that miscegenation will somehow magically cure racism.

Most major stereotypes about multiracial people in America historically involved individuals whose heritage was black and white or Native American and white. Such people were largely thought to yearn for the same advantages as whites but found them off-limits because of the “one-drop rule,” which originated in the South and mandated that just a drop of black blood meant they were of color.

In the 21st century, newer stereotypes about multiracial people have gained popularity. Rainier Spencer, founder and director of the Afro-American Studies Program and senior adviser to the president at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says contemporary media coverage of mixed-race people isn’t filled with tragic mulattoes but with docile symbols of a colorblind America yet to reach fruition.

“Multiracial people are infantilized,” Spencer says. “They [the media] don’t treat them as fully capable agents. Mixed-race people are quiet and happy, and they don’t complain. They’re our postracial future.”

Spencer, author of “Reproducing Race: The Paradox of Generation Mix,” cautions that these notions are dangerous. The stereotype that multiracial people represent a bridge between races that will soon eradicate bigotry ignores the fact that such people were in North America more than a century before U.S. independence and that racism remains a reality.

This idea also lets the establishment off the hook, he says. “If mixed-race people are going to take us to a postracial destiny, then the power structure doesn’t have to worry about it. It’s very convenient.”…

…In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau permitted declaring more than one race on census forms. In the subsequent decade, several published articles reported that the mixed-race population was increasing, especially among young people.

But Heidi W. Durrow, who grew up as the only daughter of an African-American father and a Danish mother, would like to see news stories about multiracial people that don’t revolve around census figures…

Laura Kina, a founding member of the Critical Mixed Race Studies biennial conference and associate professor of Art, Media and Design at DePaul University, has similar concerns. She considers the idea that mixed-race people are new to be a stereotype. “They go back a very long ways,” she says.

Kina is the daughter of an Okinawan father from Hawaii and a Spanish-Basque/Anglo mother, according to her website…

Dominique DiPrima, host of Los Angeles radio show “The Front Page,” takes issue with the concept of multiracialism because she disputes the concept of race. “I think the media should differentiate between culture, ethnicity and race,” says DiPrima, daughter of Italian-American poet Diane di Prima and African-American writer Amiri Baraka…

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Obama’s race still has bearing on media coverage

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-09-08 01:10Z by Steven

Obama’s race still has bearing on media coverage

The Louisiana Weekly

Nadra Kareem Nittle, Contributing Writer

(Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Maynard Institute) – Long before a little-known Illinois politician ran for president, the mainstream media focused on his race. When he flourished as a presidential candidate four years ago, everyone in America knew that Barack Obama was Black.
Have his blackness and extensive coverage of that fact boosted his political career or made it more difficult for him to win re-election? Perhaps surprisingly, some of the nation’s best political minds are divided on this question.
Obama’s race dominated media coverage about him before he became president. In 2004, he made headlines for becoming only the third African-American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction. In the 2008 presidential campaign, news stories questioned whether he could connect with African-American voters because he was born to a white Kansan mother and a Black Kenyan father, neither connected to Blacks in America.
When Obama became the first Black president, mainstream media portrayed his historic accomplishment as a symbol of a post-racial, colorblind America. That framing is contrary to the experience of millions of African-Americans and other people of color beset by conscious and unconscious bias daily in this country.
As Obama’s first term nears its end, the impact of his race in mainstream media coverage remains unclear…

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Race Card: The New York Times Realizes Mixed People Exist

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-09-11 09:02Z by Steven

Race Card: The New York Times Realizes Mixed People Exist

Bitch Media

Nadra Kareem Nittle

Breaking news: the New York Times has discovered mixed people. Did you know that the number of racially mixed families in the US is growing? Or how about that some mixed kids feel pressured to choose one race? And get this—multiracial people find it annoying to be asked, “What are you?”
Yeah, that’s about as deep as the Times Jan. 29 piece on multiracial youth got. The paper evidently rolled out the article because the Census Bureau will soon unveil data about racial groups in the U.S., including how many people identified as more than one race—a move the government first allowed on the 2000 census.

…As required by law after Election Day 2008, all articles about multiracial people must make note of President Obama. And this piece follows suit. Why did Obama just check black on his census form? Isn’t he white, too? Should we call him the first black president or the first multiracial president?…

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Five Myths About Multiracial People in the U.S.

Posted in Articles, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-05-11 04:01Z by Steven

Five Myths About Multiracial People in the U.S. Race Relations

Nadra Kareem Nittle

When Barack Obama set his sights on the presidency, newspapers suddenly began devoting a lot more ink to the multiracial identity. Media outlets from Time Magazine and the New York Times to the British-based Guardian and BBC News pondered the significance of Obama’s mixed heritage. His mother was a white Kansan and his father, a black Kenyan. Three years later it remains to be seen just what impact Obama’s biracial makeup has had on race relations, but mixed-race people continue to make news headlines, thanks to the U.S. Census Bureau’s finding that the country’s multiracial population is exploding. But just because mixed-race people are in the spotlight doesn’t mean that the myths about them have vanished. What are the most common misconceptions about multiracial identity? This list both names and dispels them.

Multiracial People Are Novelties

What’s the fastest-growing group of young people? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the answer is multiracial youths. Today, the United States includes more than 4.2 million children identified as multiracial. That’s a jump of nearly 50 percent since the 2000 census. And among the total U.S. population, the amount of people identifying as multiracial spiked by 32 percent, or 9 million. In the face of such groundbreaking statistics, it’s easy to conclude that multiracial people are a new phenomenon now rapidly growing in rank. The truth is, however, that multiracial people have been a part of the country’s fabric for centuries. Consider anthropologist Audrey Smedley’s finding that the first child of mixed Afro-European ancestry was born in the U.S. eons ago—way back in 1620. There’s also the fact that historical figures from Crispus Attucks to Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable to Frederick Douglass were all mixed-race.

A major reason why it appears that the multiracial population has soared is because for years and years, Americans weren’t allowed to identify as more than one race on federal documents such as the census. Specifically, any American with a fraction of African ancestry was deemed black due to the “one-drop rule.” This rule proved particularly beneficial to slave owners, who routinely fathered children with slave women. Their mixed-race offspring would be considered black, not white, which served to increase the highly profitable slave population.

The year 2000 marked the first time in ages that multiracial individuals could identify as such on the census. By that point in time, though, much of the multiracial population had grown accustomed to identifying as just one race. So, it’s uncertain if the number of multiracials is actually soaring or if ten years after they were first permitted to identify as mixed-race, Americans are finally acknowledging their diverse ancestry…

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