Black, White, or Multiracial?

Obama’s overlooked white side

A high-ranking member of our family administration, who wishes to remain anonymous, has the audacity to characterize me as “contrary.” She has never understood that I am just an early adopter of enlightened views that the masses eventually will embrace.

For instance, I’m still waiting for America to elect our first African-American president. In my view, Barack Obama is just another in the long line of white guys to hold that office. Long before we knew what the prez put on his census form, everyone looked at Obama’s dad and considered Barack “black.” Well, I find it just as reasonable and a lot more logical to look at Obama’s mom and declare him “white.”

Why not? This “one-drop of black blood” thing for assigning race is not only old school, it is colonial Virginia old school, which over time has become generally accepted. Both whites and blacks like it because it makes it quick and easy to categorize folks. Black people also find it appealing since we then can claim mixed-race celebrities as one of us. (This can sometimes lead to buyers’ remorse, however. In my barbershop, as Tiger Woods’ personal problems surfaced, the talk quickly went from, “Our brother, Tiger, has got that golf thing whipped” to “What was that Asian dude thinking?”)

Obama missed a lot by not playing his “white race” card. He could have had birthers tied in knots over Kansas instead of Kenya. He could have explained his attendance at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church by saying he was just doing research on black folks. It also would offer an account for Obama’s lame basketball game. And don’t give me that, “Well, he certainly looks black.” Hello, so does Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and no one challenges his authenticity.

Maxine Waters, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are starting to tilt in my direction as they criticize Obama for not being “black enough.” Well, duh, maybe the man wasn’t black to begin with. What brother do you know who was reared in Indonesia and Hawaii? Even if my man started out certified 100% African, growing up in those two places would have sucked all the black out of him.

OK, so up to now, no one but me considers Obama white. But why isn’t he ever referred to as biracial? How can that be overlooked? Americans claiming multiracial identity is burgeoning, with one in seven marriages now multiracial and mixed-race individuals are a population that has increased by roughly 35% since 2000. (Interestingly, the rates of intermarriage are lowest between blacks and whites. Go figure.)

Anyway, the aforementioned critic embedded in my marriage advises, “Enough with the labels” and says that my inverting stereotypes is hardly constructive. Once again, she’s right, of course. In truth, no matter how you come at it, there’s no excuse for putting people into boxes based on their birth.

I think it is Dr. Seuss who appropriately said: “A person’s a person, no matter how” bred (or whatever).

Source: Milwaukee Journal

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What happened to multiracial identity?

The world of racial identification according to Pew Research:

    First, the multiracial categories that include black racial identity are categorized as black. (7 CPS categories)

  • Next, if the multiracial category does not include black, but does include Asian or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, the person is categorized as Asian or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. (6 CPS categories)
  • Then, if the multiracial response includes white, the person is categorized as white. (This option has the effect of assigning persons reporting white and American Indian as white.)
  • Finally, because the CPS includes only 14 of the 26 possible multiracial categories, it has two residual multiracial categories—“2 or 3 Races” and “4 or 5 Races”. Persons in these two residual categories are assigned as black.4

“Black” vs. “African American”

The Financial Consequences of Saying ‘Black,’ vs. ‘African American’

People make vastly different assumptions about salary, education, and social status depending on which phrase is used.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

One hundred years ago, “Colored” was the typical way of referring to Americans of African descent. Twenty years later, in the time of W.E.B. Du Bois, it was purposefully dropped to make way for “Negro.” By the late 1960s, that term was overtaken by “Black.” And then, at a press conference in a Hyatt hotel in Chicago in 1988, Jesse Jackson declared that “African American” was the term to embrace; that one was chosen because it echoed the labels of groups, such as “Italian Americans” and “Irish Americans,” that had already been freed of widespread discrimination.

A century’s worth of calculated name changes are a testament to the fact that naming any group is a politically freighted exercise. A 2001 study catalogued all the ways in which the term “Black” carried connotations that were more negative than those of “African American.” This is troubling on the level of an individual’s decision making, and these labels are also institutionalized: Only last month, the U.S. Army finally stopped permitting use of the term “Negro” in its official documents, and the American Psychological Association currently says “African American” and “Black” can be used interchangeably in academic writing.

But if it was known that “Black” people were viewed differently from “African Americans,” researchers, until now, hadn’t identified what that gap in perception was derived from. A study, to be published next month in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that “Black” people are viewed more negatively than “African Americans” because of a perceived difference in socioeconomic status. As a result, “Black” people are thought of as less competent and as having colder personalities.

The study’s most striking findings shed light on the racial biases undergirding the professional world. Even seemingly innocuous details on a resume, it appears, can tap into recruiters’ biases. A job application might mention affiliations with groups such as the “Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers” or the “National Black Employees Association,” the names of which apparently have consequences—and are also beyond their members’ control.

In one of the study’s experiments, subjects were given a brief description of a man from Chicago with the last name Williams. To one group, he was identified as “African-American,” and another was told he was “Black.” With little else to go on, they were asked to estimate Mr. Williams’s salary, professional standing, and educational background.

The “African-American” group estimated that he earned about $37,000 a year and had a two-year college degree. The “Black” group, on the other hand, put his salary at about $29,000, and guessed that he had only “some” college experience. Nearly three-quarters of the first group guessed that Mr. Williams worked at a managerial level, while 38.5 percent of the second group thought so.

Curiously, the authors of the study itself avoid taking a side in the question of whether to use the term “Black” or “African American,” instead using “Americans of African descent.” The lead author, Emory University’s Erika Hall, told the podcast On the Media that this was done primarily out of a desire not to confuse the reader. She has doubts about the practicality of the term “Americans of African descent”—it’s kind of a mouthful—but is hopeful that a new phrase, purged of the old weight, will arrive someday. “I think a lot of the stigma is embodied in the time in which the term was created,” Hall told On the Media. “Eventually, there shouldn’t be a stigma attached with the word that’s created out of a more positive time.”

Hall’s findings suggest there’s an argument to be made for electing to use “African American,” though one can’t help but get the sense that it’s a decision that papers over the urgency of continued progress. Perhaps a new phrase is needed, one that can bring everyone one asymptotic step closer to realizing Du Bois’s original, idealistic hope: “It’s not the name—it’s the Thing that counts.”

Source: The Atlantic

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Medical Monday

Stroke Incidence Down in Whites and Blacks Across the U.S.

The incidence of stroke has declined significantly since 1987 in both blacks and whites and in both men and women, according to a prospective cohort study of residents in four U.S. communities.

Several studies have documented a decline in stroke rates in many other countries over the past decade, but there have been persistent racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in stroke rates in the United States, according to Silvia Koton, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Baltimore, and Tel Aviv University.

The report was published online July 15 in JAMA.

To assess long-term temporal trends, Dr. Koton and her associates analyzed data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a prospective cohort study of nearly 16,000 residents who were aged 45-64 years at baseline in 1987-1989 in Minneapolis; Washington County, Md.; Forsyth County, N.C.; and Jackson, Miss. ARIC included a comparatively large sample of black participants, and more than half the study subjects were women.

The researchers assessed 14,357 ARIC participants with 282,097 person-years. A total of 1,051 (7%) had a stroke during a median follow-up of 22.5 years for a incidence rate ratio of 3.73 per 1,000 person-years. Over time, the incidence of stroke showed an absolute decrease of 1.16 per 1,000 person-years after adjustment for age, other demographic variables, and time-varying prevalence of risk factors.

The incidence of stroke declined in blacks and whites, as well as in men and women. The incidence was 2.96 per 1,000 person-years for whites and 6.02 for blacks, with absolute, age-adjusted reductions of 0.83 per 1,000 person-years and 1.75 per 1,000 person-years, respectively. However, the decrease occurred only in people aged 65 years and older; the incidence of stroke remained steady throughout the study period in younger adults, the investigators said (JAMA 2014;312:259-68).

The risk of stroke mortality significantly declined by 20% after adjustment for age, but the reduction shrank to a nonsignificant 10% after the researchers fully adjusted for age, sex, race, center (demographic variables), hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and cholesterol-lowering medication use. In contrast to the decrease in incidence, the decrease in mortality was observed primarily among patients younger than age 65.

Stroke incidence and mortality have declined across racial groups, but the disparity between blacks and whites still persists, Dr. Ralph L. Sacco and Dr. Chuanhui Dong of the department of neurology at the University of Miami wrote in an editorial (JAMA 2014;312:237-8).

“Unless health disparities are addressed and innovative strategies to change behavior are developed and adopted, the cerebrovascular health of the population will be unlikely to improve.” In particular, younger segments of the population must protect their brain health – especially by managing controllable risk factors such as diet, exercise, smoking, and obesity – to enhance the chance of successful cognitive aging, they noted.

The study was not designed to determine why these trends occurred, but it is likely that these factors played a significant role: improvements in the control of risk factors such as hypertension, smoking, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and atrial fibrillation, and the use of reperfusion therapy and improved postacute management strategies, the researchers said.

Source: Practice Update



Amid Budget Problems, NAACP Makes Cuts in National Staff

The NAACP will lay off 7 percent of its national staff as it continues its search for a new president, writes The Baltimore Sun.

The civil rights organization says the cuts are necessary because of financial concerns. A spokesperson did not answer questions regarding how many people would lose their jobs, what types of positions would be cut, and how many layoffs would be at the organization’s Baltimore headquarters.

The announcement indicates renewed financial issues for the NAACP after strides made by its most recent president, Benjamin Jealous, to combat financial stagnation. During his five-year tenure, the organization expanded its donor base from 16,477 to more than 132,000 and nearly doubled its revenues, which reached $46-million in 2012.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy




Below is a link to an Interesting perspective from The Nairobian!

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No “Negro” on Census Forms

US stopping use of term ‘Negro’ for census surveys

This handout image obtained by The Associated Press shows question 9:
WASHINGTON (AP) — After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping its use of the word “Negro” to describe black Americans in surveys.

Instead of the term that came into use during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use the more modern labels “black” or “African-American”.

The change will take effect next year when the Census Bureau distributes its annual American Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households, Nicholas Jones, chief of the bureau’s racial statistics branch, said in an interview.

He pointed to months of public feedback and census research that concluded few black Americans still identify with being Negro and many view the term as “offensive and outdated.”

“This is a reflection of changing times, changing vocabularies and changing understandings of what race means in this country,” said Matthew Snipp, a sociology professor at Stanford University, who writes frequently on race and ethnicity. “For younger African-Americans, the term ‘Negro’ harkens back to the era when African-Americans were second-class citizens in this country.”

First used in the census in 1900, “Negro” became the most common way of referring to black Americans through most of the early 20th century, during a time of racial inequality and segregation. “Negro” itself had taken the place of “colored.” Starting with the 1960s civil rights movement, black activists began to reject the “Negro” label and came to identify themselves as black or African-American.

Still, the term has lingered, having been used by Martin Luther King Jr. in his speeches. It also remains in the names of some black empowerment groups that were established before the 1960s, such as the United Negro College Fund, now often referred to as UNCF.

For the 2010 census, the government briefly considered dropping the word “Negro” but ultimately decided against it, determining that a small segment, mostly older blacks living in the South, still identified with the term. But once census forms were mailed and some black groups protested, Robert Groves, the Census Bureau’s director at the time, apologized and predicted the term would be dropped in future censuses.

When asked to mark their race, Americans are currently given a choice of five government-defined categories in census surveys, including one checkbox selection which is described as “black, African Am., or Negro.” Beginning with the surveys next year, that selection will simply say “black” or “African American.”

In the 2000 census, about 50,000 people specifically wrote in the word Negro when asked how they wished to be identified.
Source: HOPE YEN | Associated Press 

Walking While Black

Everyone has heard about the Trayvon Martin tragedy in Florida. Hundreds of columnists, TV pundits, and anyone with media access has written about how a black kid walking in his neighborhood was killed by a White or White/Hispanic man named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman thought Martin looked suspicious. Suspicious may very well have meant black.
Do you remember “Driving while Black” a few years back? It meant that if you were black and the police stopped you, your best bet was to adhere to a certain set of unwritten rules. Black parents handed it down to their black children. Some people call it the “Black Male Code.”
I was raised in a mostly white, neighborhood in the suburbs of Detroit. The father of my children—my former husband—was raised in a predominately white area of Ohio, but his family was black. He was also 15 years older than I, so his historic perspective of how a black male conducts himself in a potentially dangerous situation was different from mine. Civil rights strides had been made in those years.
When he went out running or even just working in the yard, he always had his identification with him. At first I questioned it; I was naïve. He explained to me that there was always a chance that he would be questioned or confronted by a white “authority figure,” meaning a cop. He felt safer having his identification stuck in a back pocket or a sock.
Being a white female, I had never thought about it, and certainly never worried about it. Then we had children. Then I got it.
When our multiracial son was about to get his driving permit, we had “the talk” with him. If he was stopped by a police officer he was to keep his hands on the steering wheel at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock hour positions. No sudden movements. Do not argue. If the police officer asked for some documentation, explain that you are going to get it out of your back rear wallet or the glove compartment. When you do move, move slowly. Whatever you do, do not be perceived as a threat and of course, always carry your identification with you.
He said, “You’ve always told me I was multiracial—two races—why does “driving while black” mean me?” I explained to him that his self-identification is one thing, but how he appears to someone can be completely different and yes, someone could assume he was black, so he had to act accordingly. Be on the safe side, son.
Parents of multiracial children are not stupid. We understand reality and we know we have to educate our kids about the reality of how people may view them. I know a girl who has a white mother and a black father and people are forever talking to her in Spanish because she “looks” Hispanic to them. They assume something that is not true. In fact, in this girl’s background, Hispanic is about the only thing she is not!
When President Obama came into office, he said he self-identifies as black. That is his right, his choice, and he has that option. What bothers me is the reason he gives for choosing to be black—because that is how people see him. Yes, it makes me feel less comfortable with a world leader who is so easily swayed by what other people think. Think about it.
Then there is the other reality. Obama said publicly that he thought of his children when he thought of Trayvon Martin. He said if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. The reality is that DNA is a funny thing and sometimes genes have a way of skipping generations or making someone’s brown eyes blue. We all know someone who looks absolutely nothing like their parents or siblings. The truth is that our President doesn’t know that his son would look like Trayvon or anybody else.
In a perfect world, the color of someone’s skin would not matter. But consider that in the 1990s, when we were fighting to have the ability to check more than one race on our census forms, one of the possibilities our United States Census Bureau was considering was a “skin gradation chart.” Think about that one. 
After we finished talking to our son about driving while black he assured us that he understood and would take our advice to heart.  “But,” he said, “I call it driving while multiracial.”

Category: Trayvon Martin · Tags: ,

As MULTIRACIAL as We Wish to Be

If you read the two blog posts prior to this one, you will see one article and one opinion piece from The New York Times on the same day–today, March 16, 2012.

The staff report on the FACT that interracial marriage is seen gaining in acceptance, is based on a survey. It’s a ho hum article written by a reporter for the newspaper. It makes your eyes glaze over with data and you probably yawn at least once.

But wait! Some guy named Williams, who himself has a black father and white mother, has much, much more space than normally given to an opinion piece by the NYT. Prime newsprint real estate. His opinion is that “mixed-race blacks” have an ethical obligation to identify as black–and interracial couples have a “moral imperative” to teach multiracial children to do just that. He self-identifies as black and he recently married a white woman.

Project RACE is all about choice. If Mr. Williams wants to self-identify as black or green or purple, that is his choice and that’s fine with us. But to advise the parents of multiracial children how they should identify is to take away their own free choice. What kind of moral imperative is that?

His article goes on to give inaccurate information,states that personal decisions end up having one destructive cumulative effect, but only if it’s a decision that he does not agree with. He says, “and so I will teach my children that they, too, are black…” In our society multiracial children get the question “What are you?!” all the time. Mr. Willams’ children can always say, “I’m black because my father decided I am.” We advocate to always give children the freedom to choose and explain that multiracial is respectful terminology for a person of more than one race and an honest and valid response.
Susan Graham for Project RACE

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