Mixed or Not, Why Are We Still Taking Pictures of “Race”?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-04-15 15:29Z by Steven

Mixed or Not, Why Are We Still Taking Pictures of “Race”?

Racism Review: scholarship and activism towards racial justice

Sharon Chang

Just days ago PolicyMic put up a piece entitled “National Geographic Concludes What Americans Will Look Like in 2050, and It’s Beautiful.” In it writer Zak Cheney-Rice attempts to address the so-called rise of multiracial peoples which has captured/enchanted the public eye and with which the media has become deeply enamored. He spotlights a retrospective and admiring look at National Geographic’sThe Changing Face of America” project of last year featuring a series of multiracial portraits by well-known German photographer Martin Schoeller, and also peripherally cites some statistics/graphs that demonstrate the explosion of the mixed-race population.

“In a matter of years,” Cheney-Rice writes, “We’ll have Tindered, OKCupid-ed and otherwise sexed ourselves into one giant amalgamated mega-race.” Despite admitting racial inequity persists, he still flirts with the idea of an “end” approaching (presumably to race and by association racism), and suggests while we’re waiting for things to get better, we might “…applaud these growing rates of intermixing for what they are: An encouraging symbol of a rapidly changing America. 2050 remains decades away, but if these images are any preview, it’s definitely a year worth waiting for.” We are then perhaps left with this rather unfortunate centerpiece of his statement, “Here’s how the ‘average American’ will look by the year 2050”:…

…What I think is incredibly important here (and doesn’t seem to have come up in the ensuing disputes) is why portraits designed to quantify/quality racialized appearance were taken with such intent in the first place? Photography which captures a person’s image for the sole and express purpose of measuring then discussing their supposed race is not new and frankly, like pretty much everything race-related, has a long and insidious history. It’s known as racial-type photography and it was popularized in the late 19th century by white pseudo-scientists to “prove” the superiority of some races, and the inferiority of others. Anthropologists used photography to make anatomical comparisons, then racially classify and rank human subjects on an evolutionary scale “seeming to confirm that some peoples were less evolved than others and would therefore benefit from imperial control” (Picture Imperfect: Photography and Eugenics, 1879-1940 by Anne Maxwell, p.21)…

Read the entire article here.

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National Geographic Concludes What Americans Will Look Like in 2050, and It’s Beautiful

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-15 14:45Z by Steven

National Geographic Concludes What Americans Will Look Like in 2050, and It’s Beautiful


Zak Cheney-Rice, Writer covering race, hip-hop, sports and pop culture

It’s no secret that interracial relationships are trending upward, and in a matter of years we’ll have Tindered, OKCupid-ed and otherwise sexed ourselves into one giant amalgamated mega-race.

But what will we look like? National Geographic built its 125th anniversary issue around this very question last October, commissioning Martin Schoeller, a renowned photographer and portrait artist, to capture the lovely faces of our nation’s multiracial future.

Here’s how the “average American” will look by the year 2050:…

So is an end approaching? Will increased racial mixing finally and permanently redefine how we imagine our racial identities? The latest figures suggest we’re getting more comfortable with the idea, or perhaps that we simply give fewer shits than ever before. Either would be a step in the right direction…

Read the entire article here.

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12 Beautiful Portraits Of Black Identity Challenging the “One-Drop” Rule

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-02-06 13:48Z by Steven

12 Beautiful Portraits Of Black Identity Challenging the “One-Drop” Rule

New York, New York

Amirah Mercer

What are you?” they’d ask, head tilted and eyes squinted.

“Black,” I’d reply.

“No … but like, what else are you? I know it’s not all black.”

So went a typical interrogation by my peers as a kid. With skin lighter than even some who identify as White, and hair that streaks blond in the sun, I’ve never been offended by the question, although I have since changed my response. To the more politically correct question that I’m asked in adulthood — “Where are you from?” — I would recite my ethnic makeup, followed by a definitive, “But I identify as Black.” (If I feel like being a wise ass, I’ll simply reply with “New Jersey.”)

How do you define a racial identity? Can “blackness” be defined simply by a person’s skin tone, hair texture and facial features? Can we define it by the way someone walks or the way they talk? Can it be a product of someone’s cultural affinities, regardless of what she looks like?

These are the questions that Dr. Yaba Blay and photographer Noelle Théard encourage us to wrestle with in (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race. Featuring the perspectives of 58 people who identify as part of the larger “racial, cultural, and social group generally referred to and known as Black,” the book combines candid memoirs and striking portraits to explore the complexities of Black identity and celebrate an individual’s right to self-identify.

(1)ne Drop’s title derives from the “one-drop rule” — a (successful) attempt to define blackness in America as one drop, or at least 1/32, of Black ancestry for the economic, social, and political purposes of distinguishing a Black person from a White person. I say “successful,” because the one-drop rule still holds cultural weight today, especially with regard to how we value light and dark skin. For this reason, Dr. Blay aims to “challenge narrow yet popular perceptions of what Blackness is and what Blackness looks like.”

“I think the context that we live in shapes the way you identify yourself, and the way others identify you,” says Dr. Blay. And therein lies the power of (1)ne Drop. From Zun Lee, a man who has always identified as Black despite being phenotypically Asian, to Sembene McFarland, a woman whose vitiligo bizarrely blurs other people’s perception of her race, to James Bartlett, a man who is mistaken for Italian, Arab or Hispanic depending on what U.S. city he’s in, (1)ne Drop narrates a story of blackness that is not bound by looks, but that is fluid and empowered by the act of self-identification.

Below are 12 portraits of participants, including their self-identification and a piece of their personal story from (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race:…

Read the entire article and view the portraits here.

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Why More Races Could Appear on the 2020 Census

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-07 23:12Z by Steven

Why More Races Could Appear on the 2020 Census


Justine Gonzalez

The U.S. Census is re-evaluating how they measure race for the 2020 Census. Our country is rapidly diversifying, both culturally and racially, which makes the Census’ job that much more critical and complicated. As the 2010 Census has shown, Latinos, who often have difficulty assigning themselves a particular “race,” have replaced African Americans as the nation’s largest minority group, with 50 million in 2010 (challenging the appropriateness of the use of the term “minority”).

The U.S. Census currently officially recognizes five racial categories: white, black or African-American, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Islander. Census data is used for a variety of purposes such as determining the makeup of voting districts, monitoring discriminatory practices in hiring, and racial disparities in education and health. The data also informs and validates the work of many community-based organizations, and allows researchers to analyze and assess the social, health and economic status of specific population groups.

Race has always been difficult to understand and many disagree on the actual benefits of assigning/ defining race as we do. The concept of race in the United States is heavily influenced by the end of slavery, segregation, waves of immigration from all over the world, and intermarriage. Our current racial categories do not recognize currently growing racial and ethnic diversity, nor do they acknowledge the current immigration trends and how they may change over time…

…The term “Latino” (or “Hispanic”) is a contested term that attempts to broadly unite a group of people who are different culturally and racially but united by (perhaps) a language, though sometimes not even that. In the 2010 Census, this problem of grouping can be seen in that the “some other race” category ranked as the third-largest racial category, and NPR claims that 97% of those respondents were of Hispanic descent.

Another trend among darker-skinned Latinos and Afro-Latinos is to check “Black” as Race along with checking “Latino.” I have always done this—on college applications, the Census and other official documents—yet it does not fully capture the complexity of my racial composition. As a Puerto Rican, born and raised in New York City (aka a Nuyorican), checking ‘Black’ is an homage to my African roots—and for others, a recognition of my dark skin. In America, the definition of white still very much implies white purity. Just one ounce of “black blood” defines someone as black. Nonetheless, on a personal level, I do not see my race as ‘Black’; that is just how society would define me. My race is inextricably connected to my ethnicity in a way that no combination of box-checking can accurately describe…

Read the entire article here.

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