Last night was a big night at our house. It was the opening of the NFL Draft and the Cleveland Browns, as predicted, selected Defensive End Myles Garrett from Texas A & M as the number one pick overall. The last time the Browns took a TAMU Defensive End was 35 years ago when they selected my Dad, Keith Baldwin in the 1982 Draft! My Dad couldn’t choose between wearing Browns gear or Aggie gear for the Draft Party, so he wore both.
But here at Project RACE we were more interested in the 3rd pick than the 1st! With the third pick, the San Francisco 49ers selected Solomon Thomas from Stanford University. We at Project RACE have been a huge fan of “Solly” since his senior year in high school. He was recruited at Coppel High School in Texas by nearly all the top football schools and chose Stanford based on academics. During his college visit to Stanford, he spent more time with professors than coaches. When he announced on National Signing Day that he would attend Stanford, he did it with humor, putting on some nerdy glasses.
Solomon has had a pretty interesting life. His interracially married parents moved around a lot with him and his older sister. Born in Chicago, Solly’s family moved to Australia Gamble where he spent a lot of time surfing, swimming and playing soccer. He started football after they moved to Texas when he was in fourth grade. Solomon cares a lot about his faith and his relationships and thinks about the future when he makes decisions.
Leading up to the draft, he got attention from nearly every NFL team, just like he did in high school from colleges across the country. But unlike college, when you make it to the pros it’s all about who chooses you. I imagine that Solly Thomas is pretty happy that the 49ers, who are very near his college home of Stanford, selected him with their first pick.
The title of the new podcast,”Other: Mixed Race in America” by The Washington Post is offensive. Multiracial people are not “other.” We won’t be listening, but if you choose to, it launches May 1 and is hosted by “social media producer” Alex Laughlin.
Race and identity in many ways define who we think we are, while modern genetics can challenge those notions. To delve into these issues, I am involved with a communications studies project at West Chester University in Pennsylvania that explores narratives at the intersection of race and identity.
For the last decade, I have invited hundreds of people to be part of ancestry DNA tests. But first I ask people how they identify themselves racially. It has been very interesting to explore their feelings about the differences between how they define themselves and what their DNA makeup shows when the test results come in.
Biologically, our ancestral differences reflect only a 0.1 percent difference in DNA. Yet we often cling to those differences — both in unity with our fellow people of origin and, at times, in divisiveness.
Over all, the experiment has provided a special opportunity to explore the lines of race. I found that as human beings, our strategies for survival are the same, and our similarities far outweigh our differences.
Not surprising, some volunteers came up with stereotypes like “I thought my biological father might be black; I heard he liked basketball,” or “Wow, a little Asian; that’s why my son is good at math!” Some had hoped the DNA tests would allow them to challenge prejudices in their own families.
But inside each comment was a longing to find out more. And a long-term, ever-deepening conversation began.
What started out as a curiosity turned into a study. My colleague Bessie Lee Lawton and I began our collaboration in 2012, and a more rigorous protocol was established. Statistical analysis was done to look for patterns not easily gleaned from individual stories.
Speaking in generalities, we found that women were more flexible about their racial identity than men; that people of color expected diversity in their backgrounds more than people of European ancestry; and that younger people were more open to diversity than older ones. People of European background tended to have more anxiety, before and after the test.
Keep in mind that analyzing a person’s ancestry through DNA, means looking back hundreds of years. People receive only half of their DNA from each parent, and therefore the race or identity of either parent may be too diluted to show up in these tests.
As a black girl growing up in the 1960s, I often felt race undermined me. I was expected to love Motown, but not ballet. I was praised for speaking standard English, but my interest in the sciences was never appreciated and certainly not cultivated. Random doors opened; others closed.
It took me 10 years before I tested myself. What I found both confirmed and shook my perspective. My background included African heritage from the Gold Coast, including Nigeria and Ghana, intermingled with British and Scandinavian. I suspect this reflects the impact of the brutal Viking Age and later the English in the slave trade.
I have a smattering of Asian genes, most likely from indigenous Americans crossing the Bering Strait. For Americans, about 4 percent of our ancestry traced to Asia may actually reflect Native American roots.
However, my grandfather shared with me years ago that in his birthplace of Mobile, Ala., his earliest memories were of Chinese merchants living alongside poor black folks like him. So who knows?
Today I look at faces, even my own, with new recognition. I see that people regularly share narratives that miss something their physical features suggest, and sometimes we find ancestry that we would not have imagined. It is a new twist on an old narrative made possible by cutting-edge science.
The conversation is complicated and jagged, and it mercifully undermines neat, simplistic stories.
Over the last 11 years, more than 2,000 people have taken part in our DNA ancestry project. Below are the stories from a handful of them.
Jessica Alba is an actress and entrepreneur born in Pomona, California. Her father is Mexican American and her mother, Danish French Canadian. As an actress she has stated that she was told at times she was not Latin enough to play a Latina role or not Caucasian enough to be a leading lady. So they encouraged her to play the exotic one. She was 17 when she began auditioning for roles and has stated she has never let racial stereotypes hold her back. For her people’s thoughts and comments motivated her to become a leading lady to show that girls can look like her and have leading roles. She founded the Honest Company and stated she faced a lot of the same criticisms. People would say to her “you are an actress, what do you know about business? Go be a face somewhere.” Again, this made Alba more determined. Her business is extremely successful and she created a skin care line in hopes that it will help women of color love the skin that they are in. She stated it was always very difficult for her to find the right make up tones growing up and she wanted to help with enhancing who you are instead of covering you up and trying to look like someone else.
Comments to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
April 19, 2017
Comments on Proposals From the Federal Interagency Working Group for Revision of the Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity
Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally) is the national organization advocating for the multiracial community. Our population requires changes in the racial and ethnic classifications in this country so that we are counted correctly and accurately for research, making and enforcing laws, redistricting, school data, etc., but also for medical reasons. We have no idea what the health risks are for our population because we have not been included on forms requiring health information. These are matters of life and death. To that end, we are commenting on the Proposals From the Federal Interagency Working Group for Revision of the Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity,
In order to maintain our confidence in Federal statistics, our recommendations will address the multiracial population, which is also called “two or more races” and we hope will be taken under consideration by the OMB.
We are in favor of the combined format, as outlined by the Federal Interagency Working Group, because it is inclusive and provides for equitable and balanced results for our population. Testing for the 2015 National Content Test (NCT) by the Census Bureau showed, in fact, that there was consistency for multiracial individuals with this method. It did reduce reporting of Some Other Race, which we address below. It also appears to better reflect self-identity, which is critical to the multiracial population.
The salience of terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications and other language in the standard are critical to our community, and should have been addressed by the working group. Specifically, it is crucial that instructions are included in every instance where racial and ethnic data are collected as follows: Paper collection: Mark all boxes that apply. Note: You may report more than one group. Online collection: Select all boxes that apply. Note: You may report more than one group. These formats are the only way we can be assured that our respondents will, in fact, know they can check two or more races. These formats have been tested during the NCT by the Census Bureau and have been shown to offer the best guidance for and assurance of the most accurate resulting numbers. The new instructions increased the rate of consistency of multiple-responses when compared to the old instructions. We strongly recommend this critical approach to ensure that our population, which is often seemingly forgotten by the OMB, be counted as accurately as possible.
We also recognize problems with “Some other race” or “Other” categories and the multiracial population. If someone writes in “multiracial,” “biracial,” or “mixed,” for example, they should be tabulated and reassigned to the “two or more races” category. “Some other race” was the third highest category on previous decennial censuses, which caused much confusion and resulted in an undercount of the multiracial population. Federal agencies other than the Census Bureau commonly utilize some type of “Other” category and proper guidance should be provided by the Federal Interagency Working Group.
It is our hope that our suggestions will be taken seriously by OMB in its review of Federal Register Comments. Thank you.
Babies show racial bias at nine months, U of T study suggests
Two new U of T studies suggest racial bias can develop in babies before they’ve even started walking.
Two new University of Toronto studies suggest racial bias can develop in babies at an early age — before they’ve even started walking.
Led by the school’s Ontario Institute of Child Study professor Kang Lee, in partnership with researchers from the U.S., U.K., France, and China, the studies examined how infants react to individuals of their own race, compared to individuals of another race.
“The goal of the study was to find out at which age infants begin to show racial bias,” Lee said. “With existing studies, the evidence shows that kids show bias around 3 or 4 years of age. We wanted to look younger.”
The first study looked at 193 Chinese infants from three to ninth months, recruited from a hospital in China, who hadn’t had direct contact with people of other races. The babies were then shown videos of six Asian women and six African women, paired with either happy or sad music.
The study found that infants from three to six months old didn’t associate sad or happy music with people of the same race or of other races, which indicates they “are not biologically predisposed to associate own- and other-race faces with music of different emotional valence.”
However, at around nine months old, the reactions were different.
According to the study, nine-month-old babies looked at their own-race faces paired with happy music for a longer period of time, as well as other-race faces paired with sad music. Lee says this supports the hypothesis that infants associate people of the same race with happy music, and other races with sad music.
That’s not to say parents are teaching their children how to discriminate against other raced individuals, Lee says.
“We are very confident that the cause of this early racial bias is actually the lack of exposure to other raced individuals,” he said. “It tells us that in Canada, if we introduce our kids to other-raced individuals, then we are likely to have less racial bias in our kids against other-raced people.”
Andrew Baron, an associate professor of psychology the University of British Columbia, said while the goal of the study is “terrific,” there are many reasons infants would look for longer amounts of time at faces of different races. For example, he says an infant could spend more time looking at an own-race face because it is familiar, or at an other-race face because it is different and unexpected.
“It’s impossible to draw that conclusion about association from a single experiment when you could have half a dozen reasons why you would look longer that don’t support the conclusion that was made in that paper,” said Baron, who was not involved in the studies, but specializes in a similar field — the development of implicit associations among infants.
“There’s multiple reasons — and contradictory reasons — why we look longer at things. We look longer at things we fear, we look longer at things we like. That’s an inherent tension in how you choose to interpret the data.”
The second study took a closer look at that bias and how it affects children’s learning skills.
Researchers showed babies videos of own-race and other-race adults looking in the same direction that photos of animals appeared (indicating they are reliable) and looking in the wrong direction of the animals (indicating they are unreliable).
The study found that when adults were reliable and looking in the direction of the animals, the infants followed both own- and other-raced individuals equally. The same results occurred when the adults were unreliable and looking in the wrong direction.
However, when the adults gaze was only sometimes correct, the children were more likely to take cues provided by adults of their own race.
“In this situation, very interestingly, kids treated their own-raced individuals — who are only 50 per cent correct — as if they were 100 per cent correct,” Lee said.
“There is discrimination, but only when there is uncertainty.”
The first study was published in Developmental Science and the second was in Child Development.
The study was conducted in China, Lee says, because the researchers were able to control the exposure to other-raced individuals.
Lee said he has been trying for nearly 10 years to organize a study looking at babies born into mixed-race families. He suspects infants born into mixed-race families would show less racial bias.
When it comes to parents who want to try to eliminate racial bias from a young age, Lee says exposure is key.
“If parents want to prevent racial biases from emerging, the best thing to do is expose their kids to TV programs, books, and friends from different races,” he said.
“And the important message is they have to know them by name . . . it’s extremely important to know them as individuals.”
This week’s Famous Friday features interracial power couple – Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling. According to US Magazine, The dynamic duo quietly tied the knot in early 2016 after being together for over 5 years. They have two beautiful multiracial daughters, Esmerelda and Amada.
Eva Mendes was born in Miami, Florida, and she is of Cuban-American descent. She is a singer, actress, model, and designer. You have probably watched her in major films like Hitch, Training day, and Stuck on You. She has also been the face of several advertisement campaigns for huge companies including: Revlon, Cartier, and Calvin Klein.
Ryan Gosling is of English, French Canadian, and Scottish descent. He is an actor most famously known for his role as Noah in The Notebook. You may also recognize him from his role in La La Land, Crazy Stupid Love, or my personal favorite Remember The Titans. Over the course of his career he has racked up multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
One time when asked about his family Ryan said, “It’s heaven, it’s like walking through a field of flowers everyday – I live with angels.” I love that we are beginning to see more and more interracial power couples in Hollywood. I also love that I am seeing more interracial couples on sitcoms and commercials. It is awesome, especially considering that not even 100 years ago interracial marriage was illegal. Remember to take time to celebrate interracial couples and multiracial people everyday, and especially during Multiracial Heritage Week which is coming up soon.
If you think multiracial people have racial and ethnic problems in the United States, just look at what’s happening in Brazil. Forty-three percent of Brazilians self-identify as part pardo or brown. In the United States, multiracial people are about seven percent of the population. Their census has 136 classifications and ours has 57 for multiracial combinations.
Brazilians often do not identify as white or black, but fall into an assortment of names like dark nut, burnt white, and copper. It reminds me of the 1990s in the United States, when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was actually considering a “skin gradation chart” for their racial categories. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
Brazil has a very complex history, which I won’t go into here, but 5.5 million Africans were forcibly transported to Brazil in its story of slavery. They have never been and are now no closer to a color-blind society than we are.
Affirmative action is very scary in Brazil. Many multiracial Brazilians are being rejected or thrown out of affirmative action programs for being too white. Whether you agree with the basics of affirmative action or not, will what’s happening in Brazil ever happen to us in the United States? Will affirmative action bite the dust rather than try to qualify its participants?
Schools there are setting up race boards to inspect future educational and job applicants, It may surprise you to learn that Louisiana, in fact, had “race clerks” to maintain the one-drop rule and ensure racial “purity” until 1977. The race boards in Brazil may be the law soon. About 25 students were recently expelled from one of the leading universities for “defrauding” the affirmative action system when they were found to be not “black enough.”
One of the points we won in the 1990s in the United States was for self-identification on the census and on all other forms requiring racial and ethnic information. It was a very important victory, as important as having the ability to check more than one race. We should never forget that it was a huge win from the previous observer identification policy. In Brazil, people can self-identify, but identification is very different in Brazil, as F. James Davis wrote in Who is Black, “The implied rule is that a person is classified into one of many possible types on the basis of physical appearance and by class standing, not by ancestry.” There is a big difference in the way the two countries count by race.
The criteria used by those universities and employers in Brazil are indeed scary and include the following: Is the candidate’s nose short, wide and flat? How thick are their lips? Are their gums sufficiently purple? What about their lower jaw? Does it protrude forward? Candidates can be awarded points per item, like “hair type” and “skull shape.” So, the laws stipulate that an applicant’s race should be self-reported, but then accuses them of lying for affirmative action purposes. Many of these students are resorting to something called the Fitzpatrick scale that grades skin tone from one to seven, or whitest to darkest. It’s something we would, hopefully, never tolerate in the United States. Yet, the race commissions in Brazil have a lot of support from the black community.
The United States must be aware of the tactics utilized in Brazil and we have to learn from them. If affirmative action remains alive in our country, let’s make sure it is fair for our multiracial population.