This is the pinnacle of white privilege: being white, pretending to be Black, and profiting from this masquerade while countless actual Black people continue to suffer social, economic, and political deprivations by mere virtue of their actual-Black existence.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-04-27 17:56Z by Steven

Yes, we get that race doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mitigate the concept’s very real impact on the everyday racism and anti-blackness that saturates our culture. [Rachel] Dolezal’s poor facsimile co-opts a struggle foreign to her own for personal gain. This is the pinnacle of white privilege: being white, pretending to be Black, and profiting from this masquerade while countless actual Black people continue to suffer social, economic, and political deprivations by mere virtue of their actual-Black existence.

Sincere Kirabo, “The Myth of Transracial Identity,” The Humanist (April 18, 2016),

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The Myth of Transracial Identity

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-21 19:39Z by Steven

The Myth of Transracial Identity

The Humanist

Sincere Kirabo

Ninety years ago, writer Carl Van Vechten published a novel intended to be a celebration of Harlem, which at the time was experiencing a budding literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that sparked a new cultural identity for Black America.

Van Vechten’s vivid and nuanced tale granted white America a voyeur pass to “the great black walled city” of Harlem. There was only one problem: Van Vechten was a white man. Worse, to further inspire exposure over this willful exploit, which he referred to as his “Negro novel,” Van Vechten decided to name his roman à clef after an expression used to describe the balcony seating of Blacks in the era of overt segregation: Nigger Heaven.

Juxtapose this unauthorized thievery of select cultural expressions of an oppressed minority group with a present-day example. Last summer, educator and NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal was exposed as a white woman portraying herself as being Black. A torrent of media coverage and interviews ensued. Seemingly for the first time, the US was obsessed with the plight of a Black woman, except that the attention centered on a white woman who donned blackface and frizzy hairpieces…

Read the entire article here.

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Jefferson’s Women

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2012-03-29 01:57Z by Steven

Jefferson’s Women

The Humanist: A Magazine of Critical Inquiry and Social Concern
March/April 2012

Cleo Fellers Kocol

Thomas Jefferson was a private man who kept his personal life to himself, and yet today 18,000 of his letters exist in the public forum. In them, this farmer, architect, inventor, philosopher, politician, attorney, and “man of letters”—learned in all disciplines, a true visionary—expounded upon everything but his love life. This we know of Jefferson: he was a deist, a moralist, and a revolutionary. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and, in a letter to James Madison from Paris, suggested adding a Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. He held positions of prominence within the newly formed United States (secretary of state, vice president, and president). He also wrote the book, Notes on the State of Virginia, and edited the New Testament into a volume he considered more believable, leaving out all the miracles and keeping what he considered the moral teachings of Jesus. He was proudest of founding the University of Virginia. And like all of the Founding Fathers, he’s become an icon, above the hoi polloi. But historians have had to connect the dots to give us a real picture of Jefferson the man—one who has become the model, not only of our intellectual and democratic ideals, but, inadvertently, of the often subtle racism that exists today.

In 1810, he listed his daily schedule in a letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko, the engineer from Poland responsible for the Colonies’ fortifications, “My mornings are devoted to correspondence, from breakfast to dinner I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms. From dinner to dark I give to society and recreation with my neighbors and friends, and from candlelight to early bedtime, I read.” He got a bit closer to confiding more personal information to Dr. Vine Utley, of Lyme, Connecticut. In 1819 he wrote: “I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that not as an ailment but as a condiment for the vegetables which constitute my principal diet.” But despite this sharing of his personal life, he never wrote of the two women who were closest to him during his life—his wife and his slave mistress.

What manner of a man was the undisclosed Thomas Jefferson? Of course we know he was born just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the frontier in those days. His parents were aristocrats; his mother, Jane, was a Randolph, and his father, Peter, was a planter and surveyor whose map of Virginia was universally used in the colonial era. The elder Jefferson had an extensive library that included William Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift among others. Peter Jefferson died when Thomas was fourteen. During his formative years Thomas was tutored by the extremely conservative Reverend James Maury, an Anglican clergyman. Jefferson’s ideas about morality and religion would later jell in a way his tutor would not have applauded…

…Jefferson’s daughter, Patsy, had already been in Paris with him, and he now sent for his daughter Polly, asking that she be accompanied by a woman servant. Instead, one of the Hemings children, fourteen-year-old Sally, was sent. We don’t know when Jefferson and Sally became intimate, but we do know that she was pregnant when they returned to Monticello.

Before a 1998 DNA analysis showed a match between the Jefferson male line and a Hemings descendant, scholars, historians, and the public denied that a romantic relationship between Jefferson and his slave could have happened. As Joseph Ellis notes in American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (1998), Jefferson had become not only an icon but a myth, larger than life. This thinking temporarily blinded people to reality. Today, however, we can look to other events and speculate how his relationship with Sally Hemings may have played a role. His beloved daughter, Patsy, for example, married just two months after returning home from Paris. There is no indication that she and her husband-to-be, Thomas Mann Randolph Jr., had been eager correspondents while she was away, and there is no indication that they had been anything more than friendly cousins before she went to France. Could she have been afraid of losing her number-one spot with her father? Or can we attribute her actions to shock and anger upon learning of her father’s affair with a slave she’d known her entire life?

Such a reaction certainly would have echoed the hypocritical and confusing feelings the majority of Americans held about slavery during those colonial and post-revolutionary years. Abigail Adams, for example, was a devout abolitionist but, after seeing Othello, wrote that she was quite undone seeing a play about a marriage between a black man and a white woman. She felt horror and disgust every time she saw the Moor touch the gentle Desdemona. Abigail was no different than most of her peers. When she referred to Hemings as “the girl” rather than using her name, it was hardly seen as strange.

At Monticello, Sally Hemings was known as “dashing Sally” and was said to have a pleasing disposition. Beautiful and extremely light-skinned, she bore a probable resemblance to her late half-sister, Martha, Jefferson’s beloved wife. Hemings could also read and write and had learned to speak French while in Paris…

…Today, when African-American representatives of the government are spit upon and verbally assaulted, or when more subtle or more blatant acts erupt, the legacy of the past cannot be dismissed, and our most revered historical figures must bear some blame. We could say that Jefferson and the others reflected the social and economic mores of the times, and in a way that’s true. But their thinking had serious limitations and lasting implications. We see this thinking now, not in blatant violence like the lynching of black people or the violent reactions of some whites during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, but in less easily discernible ways, like the slow pace we took in eliminating “separate but equal,” in getting rid of poll taxes, or integrating neighborhoods. Today blacks are still paid less than whites in many instances. Discrimination in housing, schooling, and voting still takes place. As a society, we routinely deplore racial violence and say we are not prejudiced, but racism still exists. For instance, U.S. presidential candidates routinely speak at universities, schools, and public venues that discriminate against African Americans. Also, too often religion and bigotry go hand in hand. And when the main objective of a political party is to “make Barack Obama a one-term president,” few people protest, even those who support him. So if we’re being honest, we must contend that otherwise admirable historical figures like Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Monroe, and Abigail Adams contributed to the legacy of racism.

It is now accepted as fact by most historians that Sally Hemings bore six of Jefferson’s children, four of whom survived to adulthood—Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston, all named by Jefferson after his best friends. (Was James Madison amused, annoyed, or was it a habit friends indulged in even as they indulged their libidos?) Jefferson’s belief in racial superiority is evident in his theory about the offspring of mixed-race couples, including his own. He felt that an infusion of white blood could make a person half black, and another infusion would make their offspring one-fourth black. Sally Hemings was one-fourth black. Offspring of a so-called quadroon and a white man would, in Jefferson’s thinking, make them equal to whites. And yet his children by Sally were never treated as completely equal. The contradictions were rife…

Read the entire article here.

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