Medical Concerns and Race

 

A debate is taking place on social media regarding medical concerns and the multiracial community. It is a life and death issue and should not be taken lightly. Some critics have stated that since race is a “social construct,” we are all the same biologically and there are no physical differences. Therefore, they believe, that any medical differences are non-existent and should not be studied further. They believe that the reason for not having racial classifications is that no human medical differences have been found.

Project RACE finds the critics short-sighted and their beliefs dangerous. Perhaps there are physical and/or neurological differences or maybe not. We just do not know, but that is not a reason to cancel medical studies and findings. It is not a reason to prematurely do away with racial categories, although there may be other reasons in other circumstances. We can look mostly at the area of the need for donor increase for life-saving bone marrow and the need for as close to a racial and ethnic match as possible. If there were no physical differences in these areas, why would race and ethnicity be important? Obviously, these include very specific requirements in the medical realm. We simply cannot act as if it doesn’t exist. Bone marrow matching by race and ethnicity is a critical life and death matter.

Tay-Sachs is a disease that affects mostly Jewish people. Sickle Cell Anemia is mainly found in African Americans. There are many more examples. Should we discount race as a factor in medicine? Absolutely not; we should be finding out more. We must take the high road and push for more information to be sought, unlike our critics.

It’s lovely to live in a world where you think there are no racial and/or ethnic differences and perhaps that is true, but the truth is we just don’t know—not enough work has been done. An article appeared in U. S. News and World Report by HealthDay Reporter Maureen Salamon on December 6, 2018 called “Breast Cancer Deadlier for Black Women, Despite Same Treatments, which was revealed by a new trial. They did adjust for lifestyle differences and found that some drugs were metabolized differently by racial groups. The article can be read here:

https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2018-12-06/breast-cancer-deadlier-for-black-women-despite-same-treatments

And here is another plea; http://www.fox46charlotte.com/news/4-year-old-alameda-girl-diagnosed-with-rare-genetic-disorder-family-urging-donors-to-join-registry

We need more of these kinds of studies, not fewer. We need to enlarge the pool of multiracial donors for bone marrow, not act as though it’s not a problem. We have a long way to go to save lives. We can’t afford to turn away.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Depositphotos

Multiracial Teens

Multiracial teens embrace multiple cultures, languages, customs

Nicholas Ottersberg-Enriquez, a junior at the New Mexico School for the Arts, has a foot in two worlds.

His mother grew up in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, and taught Ottersberg-Enriquez and his two siblings Spanish as their first language. His father is Anglo, from Lincoln, Neb.

As a multiracial teenager, Ottersberg-Enriquez is part of a quickly growing demographic that the Pew Research Center describes as “at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the U.S.”

A Pew survey from 2015 found that the majority of multiracial Americans they interviewed were “young, proud, tolerant … and feel their racial heritage has made them more open to other cultures.”

Santa Fe teenagers from biracial — and bilingual — backgrounds interviewed by Generation Next echoed this sentiment.

“I feel that living life with two languages and cultures has opened a lot of amazing doors for me,” Ottersberg-Enriquez said . “It has given me the opportunity to see the world from two sets of eyes.”

Naya Anllo-Valdo, senior at Santa Fe High, agrees. She comes from a line of Spaniards on her mother’s side, and her father is Native American from Acoma Pueblo.

“My family’s collective identity has really made me value and appreciate every aspect of both their struggle and pride in being part of that certain culture,” Valdo said. “I’ve learned from my family how valuable it is to hold on to the teachings and values of our elders because we don’t want those things to be lost forever.”

Holding on to two sets of values and traditions also is important to Lilliana Sena-Gersh, a junior at Santa Fe Prep.

Sena-Gersh is proud to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, and said she and her sister follow a lineage of strong independent women on her mom’s side, who grew up in Taos celebrating Jewish traditions. Sena-Gersh said she has learned the importance of family from her father, who tells her stories of growing up in Chacaltianguis, Veracruz, Mexico, in a household with five children.

“He would tell me all about his town, and how he would pretend to be professional soccer players with his brothers after they would watch the World Cup. He told me how they would climb up trees to pick mangoes,” Sena-Gersh said. “His upbringing was a lot about hard work.”

Anllo-Valdo also feels connected to the tradition of passing on stories from generation to generation. She said, “In raising my kids, it is most important to me that I teach them both of my cultures, especially my Native American heritage, since it can be difficult to remain involved, and the language is often referred to as a ‘lost language.’ ” Anllo-Valdo said she sees an increasing value in being able to speak two languages, as does Sena-Gersh, who hopes to raise her children speaking both Spanish and English.

“I think one of the most important things for me when I raise my children is that they speak Spanish,” she said. “I have missed out on a lot because I’m too shy to speak, so all I do is listen. In the future, I want my kids to be able to communicate with me and my family in Spanish.”

Sena-Gersh admits that she used to be confused about who she was, but now realizes the value of having experienced two cultures and languages growing up.

“I really struggled as to where I fit in because I wasn’t accepted by the Spanish-speaking population nor the English-speaking community,” she said. “My mom has helped me grow so much as a person and was there for me when I was confused about my racial background. My parents are very hardworking people, so it means a lot to me to know that all the things they have done for me and my sister.”

Ottersberg-Enriquez and Sena-Gersh agree that their parents have worked hard and sacrificed a lot for their families. Sena-Gersh remembers how her father learned English after her sister was born. “He had to work really hard to get where he is today, and I watched him as I grew up,” she said. “I know that my dad misses his hometown a lot and he wants to go back and visit.”

Said Ottersberg-Enriquez: “My parents worked hard and didn’t sleep at times to get us through school. They did a lot, and I’m forever thankful.”

 

 

 

 

 

From the Santa Fe New Mexican

Project RACE Grandparents

The New York Times has recommended some children’s books that would be perfect from Grahndparent’s in this holiday season! Take a look and share your thoughts with us by EMAILING US AT PROJECTRACE@PROJECTRACE.COM

Susan Graham

 

Children’s Books

Picture Books That Celebrate a Grandparent’s Selfless Love

From “A Gift From Abuela.”
From “A Gift From Abuela.”

By Benjamin Anastas

 

My Nana never explained to us why she’d chosen to go by a more culturally neutral shorthand for “grandmother” instead of the customary — and irresistible — Greek word “Yiayia.” She was a proud Greek-American who worked as a receptionist until she was 84, listened to Nana Mouskouri records on the hi-fi in her living room, and rolled dolmades so perfectly uniform they belonged in an encyclopedia of domestic miracles. “Chryso mou,” she used to say out loud when she took my sister’s face in her hands, then my older brother’s, and then mine; we were all her “golden one” (“dear one” is the less literal translation), but the fierceness and unselfishness of my Nana’s love made each of us feel as if we’d been singled out.

The Brooklyn-based illustrator and graphic designer Cecilia Ruiz captures the particular tenderness of grandmothers in A GIFT FROM ABUELA (Candlewick, 29 pp., $15.99; ages 4 to 8), her first book written expressly for young children. Ruiz’s “The Book of Memory Gaps” (2015) and “The Book of Extraordinary Deaths” (2018) are dazzlingly Goreyesque in their cataloging of suggestive memory disorders and evocative deaths from the seventh century B.C. to the present. “A Gift From Abuela,” with its block-printed illustrations in muted colors, is more modest in its storytelling and heartwarming in its message, though Ruiz still manages to capture complex social realities (the economic crisis in Mexico in the early 1990s, the alienation of older adults).

The story itself is simple: Abuela saves her hard-earned pesos to buy a special present for her beloved granddaughter Niña, though when the government devalues the peso and she fails to exchange it, the money becomes worthless. To lift Abuela’s spirits, Niña’s solution is to cut the old bills into pieces for elaborate papel picado banners and use them to decorate the drab apartment, allowing Ruiz to create an art-project-within-a-picture-book story that had my own 2-year-old transfixed. An abuela’s love is valued and returned in new and innovative forms. At the book’s end, Niña and Abuela are spending a Sunday in the park, having pan dulce and watching the people go by: “It was still their favorite thing to do,” Ruiz writes.

From “Thank You, Omu!”
 
From “Thank You, Omu!”

The grandmother figure in Oge Mora’s debut as an author-illustrator, THANK YOU, OMU! (Little, Brown, 31 pp., $18.99; ages 4 to 8), is a life-giving force with a nearly bottomless stew pot. The story opens in a kitchen at “the corner of First Street and Long Street, on the very top floor” (the city is unnamed), where Omu, dressed in a yellow drape and gold drop earrings, is tasting the delicious stew that she plans on eating that night. Mora’s illustrations use collage to give the book’s world a sense of depth and vibrancy — the stew in the pot is represented by an ever-changing calico design — and the stream of cooking odors trailing out the apartment window gives the first hint of the book’s folkloric plot.

An author’s note informs us that in the Nigerian language Igbo, “omu” means “queen,” and that in Mora’s family, the word also meant “Grandma.” As Omu’s cooking pot simmers on the stove, the delicious smell travels, and soon a succession of people are knocking at the door to get a taste: a boy from down the hall; a female police officer; a hot dog vendor; a cabdriver. Omu, thanks to the deliciousness of her stew, becomes a grandmother to the whole community. When her pot finally runs empty and it looks as if Omu won’t have anything to eat that night, the community returns the love by feeding Omu with an impromptu potluck dinner. Mora is especially deft at using pastels and china markers to give the faces of her cutout figures roundness and expression; similarly, the street scenes are filled with cutouts (a lurching taxi, a flying bus, an energetic-looking soccer player) that will have toddlers reaching out to grab them.

From “Grandmother’s Visit.”
From “Grandmother’s Visit.”

The writer Betty Quan and the artist Carmen Mok strike a more somber note in GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT (Groundwood, 29 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), their collaboration about the persistence of grandmothers — and the sense of absence that follows their loss. Told in the first-person, the book follows an unnamed girl through her days with her Chinese-born grandmother (it’s never stated outright, but the girl’s grandmother is her primary caregiver while her parents are off at work), learning how to get the proportions right when cooking a pot of rice, or listening to her stories about eating red lotus beans on holidays back in her village. Suddenly the girl’s grandmother is no longer at her side after school, and the door to her bedroom is always closed. Her death is handled suggestively, and the book’s color palette darkens as the story takes a beguiling turn in its last pages and veers into the territory of a traditional Chinese ghost story. Small children shouldn’t be frightened, though — the spirit of this grandmother is much too loving and protective for that.

Lest we forget about grandfathers and their unearthly powers, the beloved children’s author Tomie dePaola, best known for the classic witchy grandmother story “Strega Nona” (1975), has created the beautifully spare picture book QUIET (Simon & Schuster, 28 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8). This meditation on seeing and stillness teaches mindfulness to children — and the adults who read to them — in a nonpreachy way. Everything about the book is pared-down essentials, from the one-word title to the sparing use of text to the colorfully elemental illustrations.

From “Quiet.”
 

The book opens with a grandfather, looking very much the artist in a banded hat and long scarf, standing in a green field with his two grandchildren and a dog, watching the bees swarm a patch of flowers. A praying mantis climbs a lily stalk, and a mother fox lies curled with her young in a hidden den. “My, oh my,” the grandfather says. “Everything is in such a hurry.” The family moves through the landscape in the pages that follow, finally sitting down on a bench in order to notice, see deeper and describe. “The birds are just like us,” the grandfather says at one point. “Taking a rest, singing their song.”

In its slowness and its serenity, “Quiet” is a prime example of the “late style” in dePaola’s trajectory (think Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” or Verdi’s “Falstaff”) and a corrective to the distraction that threatens to engulf us all. Leave it to a grandparent with an uncanny gift of sight to remind us how to stop, look and really see. But quietly.

Dr. Meredith Grey vs Actress Ellen Pompeo?

 

I admit my favorite TV Show is “Grey’s Anatomy” and one of my favorite actresses is Ellen Pompeo, who stars as Dr. Meredith Grey. Yes, I know Ellen is not a real doctor, she’s an accomplished actress and for that she needs a certain degree of intelligence.

I recently found out that Pompeo, who is white, is married to a black man. So far, so good, but then she said that she is a “white lady with a black husband and black children.” She has also been outspoken about race and diversity. I would think in this day and age of so-called race and diversity, she would acknowledge that her children are biracial or multiracial. Instead, she apparently embraces the one-drop rule.

In a recent article in ENews, called “How Ellen Pompeo Deals with Being Called a ‘White Bitch,’” Pompeo “credits her compassion with being able to withstand racially charged criticism.” What exactly does that mean? Is she compassionate because she married a black man? Does she take racially charged criticism for having black children? Ironically, on her television show, she adopted a black, not biracial child. Is she confusing real life with her acting life?

Ellen then explained it this way: “So I suffered trauma at an early age. My mother died when I was 4,” Pompeo responded. “And I think that when you suffer any kind of trauma, especially as a child, I think you learn compassion, and I think that that makes you a more compassionate person. At the root of it, compassion is a great practice.”

I am astounded by the number of people I see who talk about race “just” being a “We-All-Are-One” syndrome. Maybe we aren’t. Maybe there are important differences in those crazy genes that everyone is talking about like they know them personally. Maybe there really is something to Sickle Cell Anemia and blacks. Perhaps we need to know more about Tay Sachs and the Jewish Population. Maybe Cystic Fibrous really is more prevalent in whites. This is not a medical television show; it’s real life and could be a matter of life and death.

Marrying interracially and having multiracial children is not like winning an award for acting. It doesn’t take people with great people skills, intelligence, pain, suffering, or even compassion. It takes falling in love.

 

Susan Graham

President

Project RACE

 

 

Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Refinery29

Tired of Mariah Carey’s Anxiety

Tired of Mariah Carey’s Anxiety

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with Mariah Carey whining about being biracial. She has given many interviews about her very tough life. Give me a break. No one has it easy and we’re not saying there are not certain circumstances that are challenging for multiracial people, but she’s been pretty lucky that she’s so talented. Now during an interview with People, she insinuated that her struggle with bipolar disorder stems from the identity crisis she dealt with as a biracial child. Really?! Maybe only the psychiatric community can answer that, but we can be sure of one thing: Mariah Carey is no role model for biracial and multiracial children.

Susan Graham for Project RACE

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

 

It’s Famous Friday!

Jordan Peele

“One of the best ways to enter the conversation about race is through art.  If we can have a shared experience in a movie theatre, it gives us more of a basis for conversation.”

Jordan Peele (Born Feb. 21st, 1979) is a famous biracial American actor, writer and director.  He is well known for staring on the, Key and Peele Show, which ran on Comedy Central from 2012 to 2015 and for writing & directing the critically acclaimed horror film, Get Out, in 2017. Key and Peele won a Peabody Award in 2013 “for its stars and their creative team’s inspired satirical riffs on our racially divided and racially conjoined culture.” One of my favorite sketches on the show was called, “the substitute teacher” in which they poke fun of the way the suburban students’ names are pronounced.

The movie Get Out was enormously successful, earning over $250 million dollars worldwide, and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards in 2017.  It was even nominated for Best Picture.  Jordan Peele was nominated for Best Director and Peele won an Oscar in the category of Best Original Screenplay.  Peele described the movie as a “social thriller” where society itself is the villain.

Peele’s biracial heritage is African-American and Caucasian, as his mother was white while his father was black.  He was raised in New York, in a single parent home after his father unexpectantly died when Peele was only 6 years old.  In a recent biography, “Peele admitted that being biracial often made him feel like an outsider, such as when he had to place himself in the racial category of ‘other’ when taking standardized tests (he began selecting ‘African American’ as he grew older).  Some of his classmates didn’t believe his mother was white, and growing up he sometimes felt his voice sounded too ‘white.’”

Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film

 

 

Are Harvard “Mixed-Race” Students Mixed-up?

Project RACE was founded almost 30 years ago and we now welcome Harvard Students to the multiracial community. However, we are disappointed in the way they have chosen to differentiate their members from the community-at-large.

They will find out how it feels to be called “Mixed Up” and “Mixed Nuts”? Because that’s exactly what they’ll get whether it’s said to their faces, used as headlines, or behind their backs. The Harvard Undergraduate Union of Mixed Students became the first group on campus for all mixed race students. It sounds like a very exclusive club. Founder Iris R. Feldman stated, “Using the word mixed is very intentional. We’re not multiracial or biracial, or whatever it is.”

Feldman went on to say, she was motivated to create the union to provide a space for people who felt their identity did not fall into just one of Harvard’s cultural organizations. “While you are a part of these two communities, there is a unique, separate, mixed identity that a lot of people experience.” I have a news flash for Feldman, if you are biracial, say white and black, just for an example, you are actually part of three communities: white, black and multiracial. By the way, there are many mixed, interracial, multiracial, etc. communities that have been around for years. To think that Ms. Feldman thought of this is absurd.

Feldman and her other co-founders somehow see “mixed” as the better choice of names, but doesn’t mixed mean the opposite of pure? I certainly don’t want to see people separated by mixed and pure. It reminds me of a not so pleasant time in Germany and sometimes in some places in America. Most Jewish people understand this.

When Barack Obama was president, the media referred to him as having a multiracial background. Why? Because the term “multiracial” is appropriate, perfectly descriptive (meaning of more than one race) and respectful; perfect.

Do multiracial people use “mixed”? Sure they do. We do not discriminate, but we have our preferences for very important reasons. Mainly, we thought it through over the past 28 years that we’ve been around. No one at Project RACE would ever tell someone how to racially or ethnically identify. We fought very hard in the 1990s to win the right to self-identify, and if that means “mixed,” to some people, so be it. We only make suggestions. We realize the 90s are ancient history to you, but that is also when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said we had to decide on only one word for the community, and after a national vote, that word was “multiracial.” History is important.

I wish Ms. Feldman and her mixed friends the best of luck and welcome them to the community.

Susan Graham for Project RACE

Photo Credit: Diverseeduccation.com

 

 

It’s Famous Friday!

Evan Ross and Ashlee Simpson

Evan was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. His mother is entertainer Diana Ross who is African American. His father was of Norwegian and German descent. Evan is an American actor and musician. Evan married Ashlee Simpson in 2014. In the same year they had their daughter Jagger Snow Ross. Ashlee Simpson is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Her older sister is celebrity, Jessica Simpson. Ashlee has an 8 year old son from her previous husband, Pete Wentz. Evan has a good relationship with Ashlee’s ex husband, Pete. “I think that for me, my relationship with Pete has been amazing. He’s an amazing father. He knows that I love his son very much, but it’s his son.” Ashlee and Evan have a reality show on E! The viewers get an inside look at their interracial family which covers balancing being young parents and continuing their careers. The show details their marriage, their family and friends, and the duets album. Simpson says “My biggest thing on the show, and in general, is finding my balance of how [I’m a mom] and do all of the work in the studios and my hours, and also make sure I’m there for school. For me, it’s so important that I find that balance, and you see me really trying to discover it.” The beautiful family has already posted their Christmas card on their instagram.

Makensie Shay McDaniel

Teen President Emeritus

Photo Credit: Popsugar.com

Blacks and Cardiac Death

 

A very interesting article appeared recently in The New York Times called “Blacks are Twice as Likely as Whites to Experience Sudden Cardiac Death.” The study is seen as extremely well-researched and appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The researchers controlled for a wide-variety of factors, including education, physical activity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, income, and more. But even after accounting for the differences, they found that the risk for sudden cardiac death was still 97 percent higher in blacks than in whites.

Although the multiracial population was not specifically studied, we at Project RACE completely agree that more medical research needs to be done. This subject has been in disagreement in the community with some people’s knee-jerk, head-in-the-sand reaction that medicine should not look at racial differences. The fact is that there are differences that show up in bone marrow, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, etc. However, those facts are of no concern to them. We are not saying, and it should not be misinterpreted as our saying, that there are physical variations that cause medical problems. We are saying that it needs to be studied further, which is what the study leaders are pointing out. –Susan Graham for Project RACE

 

 

It’s Famous Friday!

Henry Golding

At 30 years old, Henry Golding was a host for a Malaysian travel show. Half English and
half Malaysian, Golding was deeply connected with both of his heritages (after spending much
time in both London and Kuala Lumpur). He also had a passion for hair and had worked in many
salons previously. But this future Hollywood star had no acting experience.

On the other side of the world, director Jon Chu was looking for a lead actor in this new
movie Crazy Rich Asians . Golding was spotted however, not by Chu or even a casting director,
but by an accountant working in the Malaysian production office. She sent videos and clips of
Golding to the director who was instantly impressed. And so, after interrupting his honeymoon to
audition, Golding would land the role that changed his life.

Crazy Rich Asians was a tremendous success. Grossing $236 million, it is the highest
earning romantic comedy in the last decade. Receiving exceptional reviews from critics, it
captivated audiences around the world. It also marks an important step forward to a more
multicultural Hollywood. It is the first film produced by a major Hollywood studio to feature a
majority Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993 and demonstrates a promising future a more
diverse film industry.

From a relatively unknown TV personality, Golding is now unable to go anywhere
without being recognized. He was named one of GQ’s Men of the Year and will be starring
alongside Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas , set to be released in 2019. In an interview he spoke
about his newfound fame: “It’s like everybody knows exactly who you are, and the way that they
speak to you is different. I’ve stayed the same throughout. It’s just people’s perception of you
changes.”

Ian Shen-Costello
Project RACE Teens Vice-President

Image Source: https://variety.com/2017/film/news/henry-golding