Kamala Harris Update

Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, faced at least one question about her heritage on Monday. When a reporter, who noted she is both African-American and Indian-American, asked how she would describe herself, Harris replied: “How do I describe myself? I describe myself as a proud American. That’s how I describe myself.”

Here We Go Again

 

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her run for president today. Major news outlets such as The New York Times, AP and CNN all referred to her immediately as the first African American woman to run. She is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. Harris is biracial. That she announced her intent on MLK Day is significant and shows that she has fought for human rights and equality. It does not indicate that she is black.

I don’t know how Kamala Harris self-identifies racially and she may well define herself as black, as did Barack Obama when he was president. She absolutely has that right, but it would mean a lot to the multiracial community if she acknowledged her biracial heritage and identity, however it’s not likely. Here we go again.

by Susan Graham for Project RACE

 

Photo Credit: AP

 

It’s Famous Friday!

Jorja Smith

Jorja Smith is an interesting yet soulful singer who I have been watching gain popularity over the years. Her feature in Drake’s “Get it Together” and Kali Uchis’ “Tyrant” called my attention to her stunning voice. I absolutely loved her new album “Lost and Found” and will be attending her concert in two weeks.

Jorja was born in Walsall, West Midlands, in the United Kingdom, on June 11,1997, to Peter and Jolene Smith. Peter is her Jamaican, neo-soul singer father who is in a group called Second Nature, and her mother Jolene is a jewelry designer.

Since the age of 8, she has been encouraged to be musical and take piano lessons. The first song she wrote at the age of 11 was called “Life is a Path Worth Taking”. In her early years she earned a music scholarship at Aldridge School, where she studied classical singing and also how to play the oboe. A manager scouted her at the age of 15 after viewing her singing videos on YouTube.  After graduating from school, she moved to London and supported herself as a barista and continued to pursue her dreams and write songs.

Her second single “Where Did I Go?” was lauded by Drake as his favorite track during the summer of 2016. Soon after Smith was picked as number four on the list of BBC Music’s sound of 2017. She performed as an opening act on Bruno Mars’ tour 24K Magic World Tour and was a special guest on Drake’s Boy Meets World Tour. In December of 2017, it was announced that she was the recipient of the 2018 Brit Critics’ Choice Award. She is the first independent artist to have been nominated for the award, let alone win.

Smith has said her songs serve as a platform to address social issues.  She stated regarding her music, “When things are going on in the world, I think it’s important to touch on them, because as a musician, you can make people listen. As soon as people press play, you’ve got their attention.”

Nadia Wooten,

Project RACE Teens Vice President

 

Photo by: Ebru Yildiz

 

Citizenship Question Blocked on Census

Court Blocks Trump Administration From Asking About Citizenship in Census

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr., center, ordered the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

New York Times

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in New York blocked the Commerce Department on Tuesday from adding a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census, handing a legal victory to critics who accused the Trump administration of trying to turn the census into a tool to advance Republican political fortunes.

The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.

A broad coalition of advocacy groups and state and local officials had argued that the citizenship question was effectively forced into the census under false pretenses, in violation of laws enacted to ensure that federal policies heed the public interest.

[Inside the Trump administration’s fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census]

At first blush, the central question of the lawsuit — whether the 2020 census should ask respondents if they are citizens — seems mundane enough. A similar question was asked in most federal censuses before 1960, and it is still asked by the Census Bureau in the American Community Survey, which samples about 2.6 percent of the population each year.

But opponents argued that adding the question to the census itself would undermine the constitutional mandate to count every person, regardless of citizenship, because it would discourage noncitizens from filling out the questionnaire for fear of persecution. That was especially true, they said, in light of the Trump administration’s open hostility toward some immigrant groups and its campaign to round up and deport undocumented residents.

Roughly 24 million noncitizens live in the United States, and fewer than 11 million of them do so illegally. Nearly one in 10 households includes at least one noncitizen. A substantial reduction in the number of households that respond to the census could alter the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grants and subsidies.

Because the census is also a statistical baseline for business and government decisions, an undercount could skew countless decisions on matters like where to locate new stores or where to open or close medical clinics.

Total population figures will be used to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives in 2021, so the contours of Congress, the Electoral College and thousands of state and local political districts could be affected. Because noncitizens tend to live in places that disproportionately vote Democratic, undercounting them in the census would be likely to shift federal spending and political power to Republican areas.

Some of the six lawsuits to block the addition of the question, filed by advocacy groups and public officials in California, Maryland and New York, argue that such a shift is the real motive for the Commerce Department’s decision.

The official explanation from Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, was that he was responding to a request the previous December by the Justice Department, which stated that census data on citizenship would help it better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Commerce Department oversees the Census Bureau.

Under court scrutiny, Mr. Ross’s argument turned out to be incomplete. As Mr. Ross later acknowledged in another memorandum, he had begun considering the issue within days of becoming Commerce secretary in February 2017. Internal documents made public in the lawsuit showed that Justice Department officials had not asked for a citizenship question, and had rejected an initial plea from the Commerce Department to do so. Only after a monthslong campaign, capped by a telephone call by Mr. Ross to the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, did the Justice officials assent.

In sworn testimony, the department’s senior civil-rights official conceded that census data was not necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act, and that citizenship information from the American Community Survey and its predecessor had been used for more than five decades without difficulty.

The Census Bureau itself had recommended against adding a citizenship question, estimating in an analysis in January that at least 630,000 households would refuse to fill out the 2020 questionnaire if such a question were included. Adding a citizenship question “is very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate citizenship status data than are available from administrative sources,” the bureau’s chief scientist, John M. Abowd, wrote in a memo to Mr. Ross.

Government lawyers argued repeatedly during the trial that none of that mattered, because Mr. Ross had broad leeway in making his decision. That statistical experts disagreed with Mr. Ross “is immaterial to this case,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett A. Shumate told the court. “All the secretary is required to do is to provide a reasoned explanation,” he said. “He doesn’t have to choose the best option.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said Mr. Ross’s decision was not based on the merits, but was clearly tailored to his personal views. Mr. Shumate disagreed. While “it was evident that he had a policy preference” toward adding a citizenship question, Mr. Shumate argued, Mr. Ross had sought a range of advice and had acted only after the Justice Department established a need.

“Where’s the evidence that Secretary Ross would have plowed ahead had he not had the D.O.J. letter” requesting a citizenship question, he asked. “There is none.”

Mixed ancestry might affect our mitochondria

I don’t even know what to say about this. See article below. -Susan Graham for Project RACE

Differences in the geographic origin of genes may affect the function of human mitochondria—energy-generating organelles inside of cells—according to a new study.

Mitochondria have their own genome, separate from the nuclear genome contained in the nucleus of the cell, and both genomes harbor genes integral to energy production by mitochondria. The study explores whether these “mito-nuclear” interactions, which natural selection fine-tunes over deep evolutionary time, could change when genes of different geographic origins are brought together within a genome.

The study, which appears today in Nature Ecology and Evolution, could have implications for public health and for medical procedures that replace mitochondria in human cells.

“Genomes that evolve in different geographic locations without intermixing can end up being different from each other,” says Kateryna Makova, professor of biology at Penn State and an author of the paper. “Nowadays, there is so much mixing that pretty much everyone’s genome is made up of bits and pieces of DNA that evolved in different locations around the world, which can result in ancestry variation within the genome.

“For example, many of us carry pieces of the Neanderthal DNA alongside modern human DNA. This variation has a lot of advantages; for example, increased variation in immune genes can provide enhanced protection from diseases. However, variation in geographic origin within the genome could also potentially lead to communication issues between genes, for example between mitochondrial and nuclear genes that work together to regulate mitochondrial function. Understanding this process could have implications for human health.”

Mitochondria and mixed ancestry

The researchers focused specifically on genes that mitochondria use. To perform their functions, mitochondria rely on genes encoded in the DNA of the mitochondria itself and on genes that are encoded within the nucleus of the cell. Because mitochondrial and nuclear DNA are inherited in different ways—nuclear DNA is roughly equally passed on from mother and father, but mitochondrial DNA is exclusively maternal—there are greater opportunities for differences in origin of mitochondria-related genes in the nuclear genome compared to genes in the mitochondrial DNA itself.

The researchers first investigated whether discordance—the degree of difference in geographic origin between the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes—can affect a trait. They found that increasing amounts of discordance were related to decreasing numbers of copies of mitochondrial DNA in a cell, which could imply reduced efficiency of mitochondrial DNA replication.

“We observed this pattern across six groups of Americans with mixed ancestry. The specific origin didn’t matter, just how dissimilar the nuclear origin was from the mitochondrial origin,” says Arslan Zaidi, postdoctoral researcher in biology at Penn State and first author of the paper.

“Although these differences in geographic origins are present in all humans, we specifically looked at populations with mixed ancestry because the effects of these differences should be easier to detect in such populations.”

A new mystery

The research team also found that, over time, natural selection might have reduced the overall difference in geographic origin between mitochondria-related nuclear genes and the mitochondrial genome. They found evidence for this in two of the six groups analyzed. Puerto Ricans, who have a high proportion of mitochondrial DNA of Native American origin, have more mitochondria-related nuclear genes of Native American origin than expected compared to genes from the rest of the nuclear genome that code for other functions.

Similarly, African Americans, who have a high proportion of mitochondrial DNA of African origin, have more mitochondria-related nuclear genes of African origin than expected compared to the rest of the genome.

“In these groups, we hypothesize that natural selection is guiding the trajectory of mitochondria-related nuclear genes, favoring gene variants that are more similar in geographic origin to the mitochondrial DNA,” says Makova. “There is likely selection pressure acting on the rest of the nuclear genome in these groups, but there isn’t a systematic enrichment towards one ancestry type across all of those genes.

“In three of the other groups we examined, however, we did not observe this trend, and in one group we actually found the opposite trend. We don’t have a good explanation yet, and this really demonstrates the complexity of these kinds of interactions.”

No advantage or disadvantage

The results of the study highlight the need to study interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in more detail. However, the researchers caution that the effects of discordance they observed were detected in cell lines derived from human tissues, so it is unclear to what extent these effects may be present in human tissues themselves. In the future, they plan to investigate this question and also to explore the effects of discordance on other aspects of mitochondrial function and on other complex traits such as the rate of heart disease.

“To be clear, our study does not suggest that having a particular combination of mitochondrial and nuclear genes would provide an advantage or a disadvantage,” says Makova. “But it does tell us that we should keep investigating these differences in geographic origin between these two groups of genes.

“This kind of information will be particularly useful in medical procedures such as mitochondrial replacement therapy, where patients with damaged mitochondria receive mitochondria from a donor. It’s possible that matching the origins of the mitochondrial donor with the patient could improve the effectiveness of these procedures, but future work is needed to know for sure.”

Funding for the work came from the Penn State Center of Human Evolution and Diversity, the National Institutes of Health, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health using Tobacco CURE funds. The Penn State Eberly College of Science, the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and the Penn State Institute for Cyberscience also supported the research.

Source: Penn State

(Credit: Don Ross III/Unsplash)

It’s Famous Friday!

Jesse Williams

Best known for his TV roles, Jesse Williams is an outstanding actor and advocate for equality among all races. As the youngest member of the board of directors of The Advancement Project (a civil rights think-tank and advocacy group), Jesse does all he can to help prevent racial injustice. In 2016, Jesse Williams won the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET awards. He gave a speech focusing on racial injustice, police brutality, and the invention of “whiteness.” “It’s kind of basic mathematics – the more we learn about who we are and how we got there, the more we will mobilize.”

Jesse Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up, Jesse experienced two very different communities and cultures. His mother is Swedish and his father is African American. From the hoods of Chicago to the suburbs of Massachusetts, Jesse has lived in every community. Jesse and his two brothers spent a lot of time at school, as their parents both became teachers in the public school system. Though race didn’t seem like a big deal, he did notice a shift in diction from the places he lived. “We all use similar vocabularies but mean very different things. I started to pick up on that as I reached adolescence,” Jesse says. Jesse graduated from Temple University with a double major in African American Studies and Film/Media Arts.

Jesse Williams’ acting career began in 2005 when he was chosen to participate in the New York Actors Showcase presented by ABC Television. From there, his acting career flourished and he began getting casted left and right. He played various roles such as “Kwame” in Law and Order and “Leo” in The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants. He’s most known for his role as “Doctor Jackson Avery” in the show Grey’s Anatomy. Even in the show, he advocates for the rights of fictional characters who have experienced racial inequality. In addition to acting, Jesse Williams has launched two mobile apps, hosted a basketball podcast, and filmed a remake of the 1990 thriller, Jacob’s Ladder.

Jesse Williams’ heart for others is truly phenomenal. His work continues to inspire others and help bridge unity across races through the United States.

Alexis Cook, Project RACE Teens, Co-President

 

(Photo Credit: PR Photos)

 

 

 

It’s Famous Friday!

Jason Momoa

 

Jason is the multiracial star of Aquaman. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Jason was raised by his mother in Norwalk, Iowa. His father is Native Hawaiian and his mother is of German and Native American ancestry. Jason is an American actor, writer, film producer, director and model. I have seen the movie Aquaman. It was interesting viewing it from a multiracial perspective and relating to Aquaman not fitting in.

Aquaman, Arthur Curry, is called a half breed or impure on several occasions throughout the movie. When asked about Aquaman’s identify battle, Momoa has stated “The guy was never really accepted on land, and he was never really accepted in Atlantis. He’s a half-breed. But he’s the best of both worlds. He just doesn’t know how to handle his powers. So it’s kind of a coming of age for a young man to a man, or a man to a king. He’s lost a lot of things and he’s got to cope. He’s an outsider.” Momoa was asked in an interview if his life experiences helped him relate to what he wanted to do with half-human and half-Atlantian Aquaman. Momoa said “I grew up in the Bridges of Madison County area, like one county over. I graduated with maybe 100 kids, all very much the same. I stood out. I didn’t kind of do the same stuff. I was a bit of a skateboarder, and I started rock climbing. I love Iowa, but I just didn’t fit in. If you’re a Hawaiian kid in Iowa, you’re kind of a fish out of water. Then I went back to Hawaii and I was ostracized there too. I loved both, but just made my own path. So I think it’s easy to relate to Arthur Curry, not really being accepted here and not really being accepted there.” Momoa said it was and honor to represent his people. He was also glad that this is the first movie his children were able to watch of him. They were even able to be on set. Momoa is married to Lisa Bonet. They met in 2005 and legally married in 2017. They have been a couple since 2007. They have two children together and Jason is the step father to Zoe Kravitz.

Even though “half breed” put downs where used throughout the movie I enjoyed the love story. From my perspective the reason Arthur Curry was a true King is because he could use his identity to unite both worlds and create peace. That’s how I view my own multiracial identity. I love being able to identify with multiple races and I believe that love conquers all. It was wonderful seeing Jason Momoa dominate the superhero movie as Aquaman.

Makensie Shay McDaniel

Project RACE Teen President Emeritus

 

Picture Credit: imdb.com

 

A New Year…

A new year and a new Project RACE Grandparents President! We welcome Beth McNally to our Project RACE family. Please read Beth’s bio below. We’re very excited about her commitment to our multiracial grandchildren.

Beth McNally received her B.A. from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN and currently works for a law firm in Northern Virginia in the field of trust/estate and guardianship administration.  She has previously owned her own business and has also worked for non-profit groups handling bequests.   Beth is a volunteer in local politics, Best Friends Animal Society, the Fairfax County Public School System and A Simple Gesture (a food bank group).  She lives in the suburbs of Washington DC and is the mother of two adult children and the very proud grandmother of Campbell who was born in 2012 (at her house!) and is biracial. She looks forward to learning about and sharing resources with other grandparents of multicultural grandchildren.

 

The Kardashian Doll Clash

 

I admit to not following the Kardashian family. I may be the only one. But something really jumped out at me in the last few days.

Khloe Kardashian sent out a tweet asking for help finding a “biracial doll” for her biracial daughter. Dolls that resemble biracial or multiracial babies are not exactly a new phenomenon, but some do exist. That doesn’t really seem to be the problem.

Many, many people started social media screaming about black dolls being readily available and that Khloe should get her “really black” child one of them. Whoa! Here come the “one-drop” rule folks who think if you have one drop of black blood, you are black. Even dolls.

No, no, no, this isn’t about that. It’s about a mom wanting to get a doll for her daughter that she can relate to. It’s not about picking on skin tone or wanting the child to be white, which also rudely came out on social media. One black tweeter said, “Get your black daughter a black doll.” It’s not about making a social identity statement—it’s about a doll to play with.

Come on people. Get a grip. When my son was young, biracial looking dolls didn’t exist. He wanted a black “Buddy” doll for Christmas and we happily got him one. Not because we considered him black (he is biracial), or because he would become confused by skin color, but because we also would have gotten him a pink, red, or purple doll if that was what he wanted. He took “Buddy” everywhere with him. They both had short black hair and big brown eyes, but that was about the extent of how much they looked alike. I recently asked my son, who is now 34-years-old, what he remembered about Buddy and he said, “Not a thing.” But he does know very well that he is biracial. In fact, he’s expecting his own biracial daughter in February. I’ll get her the doll she wants or maybe one that looks like her. It’s what parents and grandparents do.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Hollywood Unlocked

Book Review

Becoming by Michelle Obama

A Book Review

By

Susan Graham

I bought Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir because I had always liked her public persona and thought I would like her personal one. I was wrong. You really won’t like my review if you really want to love Michelle Obama no matter what. All I’m asking is that you read the entire book with an open mind before you criticize my critique.

First, let me get this out of the way. I am involved with advocacy for multiracial children. Barack Obama, Michelle’s husband, of course, is multiracial although he publicly self-identifies as black. Fair enough, but Michelle refers to him as a “hybrid” (page 98). I find that highly offensive. Hybrid is a term is usually used to refer to the offspring of animals or plants of different breeds. It is not normally used for humans, especially children. Shame on Michelle. He has referred to himself as a “mutt,” which is just as bad. Becoming, make no mistake, is about race. More about that later. Let’s stay on Barack Obama for a moment. He is the son of a black man and a white mother. He can say he’s black all he wants, it’s his choice, but if he or his children ever need a bone marrow donor, they will look to the multiracial community, no doubt about that. Michelle also writes that it’s “hard to pin down his ethnicity” on page 117. Huh? I think it’s pretty simple: his black father is from Kenya and his white mother is from Kansas.

This is a book filled with racial-speak on every page of the over 400-page book. Mrs. Obama assigns everyone a race based on her observations. Only once does Michelle Obama dare to breathe a word for a white woman with “mixed-race” grandchildren (page 244) and even then she can’t write “biracial” or “multiracial.” What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll tell you. Michelle doesn’t even entertain the thought of people not being multiracial. She clearly holds on to the old one-drop rule that one-drop of “black blood” makes you black. Biracial or multiracial people, especially children, don’t exist.

Every single reference in Becoming is about race. She makes certain to let us know that there are servants in the White House who are “African American” or “black.” It’s obvious that self-identification doesn’t count—its Michelle Obama identification. If someone is white, she uses euphemisms: blond, brunette, “sipping wine with wealthy women”: suburban, etc. Why does everyone in Michelle Obama’s world have to have a color introduction? Can’t we just be people? No, not in her world. Isn’t it the high road to treat everyone the same? How can we one day do away with racial categories if people like her keep pigeonholing everyone?

Michelle Obama grew up on the South Side of Chicago and sets out to prove that made a difference in her life—growing up middle-class black in what could be called a ghetto by some; she even refers to it that way. But let me tell you, she only proves that you can take the South Side out of the girl. An example of this is the $3,900 pair of thigh-high, gold sparkly boots she wore on the last night of her book campaign. She flaunted the pricey Balenciaga boots, which matched her Balenciaga dress. I’d say she’s come very far from the South Side.

It saddens me to think that Michelle Obama has segregated her world. Yes, it’s easy to do and I’m sure there are many people who haven’t even read the book, but who will disagree with me based on their perception of the writer of this book. It’s too bad.

I’m disappointed. I wanted to like this book and its author and I don’t. I came away from it thinking that when she goes low, the rest of us should go high.

 

Photo Credit: slideshare