Comments by Susan Graham

Comments by Susan Graham for Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally)

Fall, 2018 National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations Meeting

November 2, 2018

 

The Casey Foundation’s 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book warns that the 2020 census is mired in challenges that could shortchange the official census count by at least two million kids younger than age 5. This discrepancy would also put hundreds of millions of federal dollars at risk and, in doing so, underfund programs that are critical for family stability and opportunity; essential programs like housing, food, education, and healthcare.

As we all know, the Casey Foundation gets its numbers from the Census Bureau. Federal dollars seem to be the focus, but can we put the money aside for the moment? Yes, it’s important to be counted for the money, redistricting and civil rights enforcement, but it’s also critical to focus on identity. It’s crucial to see your race(s) or the races of your children on news stories, pie charts, forms, data reports, and anywhere other races are included. Also, you can’t keep accurate records if you don’t have an accurate representation of someone, including their racial identity.

Let me give you some reminders about identity. First, when a multiracial person is asked about their identity it sounds like this: What are you? In his book The Lies that Bind, Kwame Appiah makes these observations, “In sum, identities come, first with labels and ideas about why and to whom they should be applied. Second, your identity shapes your thoughts about how you should behave; and third, it affects the way other people treat you. Finally, all these dimensions of identity are contestable, always up for dispute: who’s in, what they’re like, how they should behave and be treated.”

 

One example from the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book is this:

 

In 2017, 81 percent of African-American,

79 percent of American Indian, 78 percent

of Latino and 60 percent of multiracial

fourth-graders were not proficient in reading,

compared with 54 percent of white and 44

percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students.

 

They used the appropriate, preferable, and respectful term “multiracial.” The Census Bureau calls us “Two or More Races” people. The Casey Foundation counted and published the multiracial numbers. Not all entities do. Why is this important? Just as it’s important to see the African-American, American Indian, Asian, white, and Latino students, it’s crucial that multiracial families and individuals see themselves included in data. Proper racial nomenclature is critical, this has been proven over and over again every time a group, any group, changes its label.

The multiracial community has been invisible to this committee, the Census Bureau, and the government for far too long. We know it and you know it. We can only assume that you are not eager to have people check two or more races because it would benefit your groups to have our numbers. We are not willing to choose single race over multiracial just so your groups can benefit monetarily.

Now we are looking at the 2020 Census and how we can all shore up our numbers. We must all answer this question: how does filling out the race boxes on the census impact our groups? For the multiracial population, it’s really not a matter of money. No one is going to give dollars to feed little multiracial children based on the boxes they check. However, we need to accurately report growth in our numbers and demonstrate that the multiracial population is an important one. WE ARE ASKING TO BE INCLUDED WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT, TALK ABOUT, AND WRITE ABOUT RACES IN AMERICA.   

The multiracial population is, perhaps, the largest of the hard-to-count groups by virtue of the fact that few care if we are counted as multiracial except us. In a recent webinar, census consultant Terri Ann Lowenthal was asked if people have to respond to every question, including race, when filling out their census form online. She answered that they do not. They can “hit submit and it will be accepted.” We would hate to see interracial families and multiracial individuals skip the race question. We need your help to ensure that this does not happen.

This is a time of suspicion, particularly between minorities and government. We can only get past that for the 2020 Census by showing trust. Project RACE has proven that we are a trusted entity for the multiracial population, but this committee, the bureau, and government need to show us that we can trust you. We are open to working with you to ensure that there is not an undercount of the multiracial community. We sincerely hope that you are finally ready to say the same. Thank you.

Susan Graham

President

Project RACE

Website: projectrace.com

Email: susangraham@projectrace.com

Race-based medicine and the multiracial population

Failure of race-based medicine? We aren’t accounting for the unique genetics of biracial and multiracial populations

For several decades in modern medicine history, human race has been used as a constant variable to predict and/or determine our disease risks, biometric profiles, health behaviors and outcomes. It drives many of our medical standards, including clinical guidelines, medical school curricula, and clinical decision support tools and algorithms. This reductionist approach to medicine, however, has proven questionable and risky for biracial and multiracial individuals with high levels of phenotypical (physically-apparent) and genotypical (physically non-apparent) variation.

Some clinical study reports  describe how race-based approaches to health diagnosis and management have led to inaccurate assessments in medical practice, especially in cases of bone marrow transplants for multiracial populations. Susan Graham is the president of Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), an organization advocating for multiracial classification in health care settings for people of two or more races. In an interview with the Genetic Literacy Project, she explained that “a multiracial person’s best chance of bone marrow donor acceptance must take [multi]race into account to get as perfect a match as possible.” That’s why we need to do more, as a society, to expand the number and diversity of bone marrow donors to help solve this issue for multiracial populations, she said.

Race versus genetics: Social constructs or health determinants?

The idea of race as a social construct has been well researched, with some classically defined racial groups experiencing greater hardships – including poor access to health care services – than other racial groups in the US.

Questions also have arisen regarding the use of race as a health determinant, due to recent advancements and novel findings in genomics, ancestry, and medicine.

For instance, single- and multi-gene tests for harmful genetic variations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are used by doctors to identify people with increased risk of developing breast cancer. As a result, those people undergo closer medical surveillance, take more aggressive prevention measures, and are more likely to receive appropriate treatments when needed.

mutations 9 21 18From an epidemiological standpoint, the concept of race as a determinant of breast cancer diagnosis follows: According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), American women of Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity or descent, followed by women of northern European ethnicity or descent, hold the highest prevalence of breast cancer-associated BRCA1 and BRCA2 variations.

This finding may be influenced by personal, social, economic and environmental factors that influence health care service utilization among racially-defined groups.

However, if women of Ashkenazi Jewish and northern European descent in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are overrepresented in genetic databases, then the NCI’s findings are incomplete and warrant investigation to see if larger genetic representations of single race, biracial and multiracial individuals are required for greater epidemiological accuracy. The All of Us research program, sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and supported by the Precision Medicine Initiative, are examples of steps forward in this direction to increase diversity in genetic health databases.

Stakeholder discussions about race, genetics and clinical guidelines

The graph below displays the number of articles searchable within www.PubMed.gov between 1998-2017 using search phrases “race AND clinical guidelines” and “genetic AND clinical guidelines”. The graph shows that clinical guidelines discussions about genetics have drastically outpaced those about race within the past 20 years.

Related article:  Precision medicine inches along

Similar discussions about multiracial populations, however, have been scant, leaving this area ripe for scientific exploration. “The multiracial population is very new to the concept of precision medicine, as we are still fighting for recognition in medicine and race-based data,” Graham said.

The medical community is lagging in its inclusion of biracial and multiracial Americans, she said.  Multiracial populations seemingly add layers of complexity to standard race-based clinical guidelines.

So, is the medical community really lagging here? Or, are biracial and multiracial patients lumped into single racial categories by clinicians who must adhere to race-based clinical guidelines?

Also, how can members of the medical community effectively engage with growing multiracial populations to improve racially-driven clinical guidelines that may not adequately serve the unique needs of multiracial populations?

Dr. Elizabeth Clayborne is a multiracial emergency medicine physician and educator at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has worked with the National Human Genome Research Institute to address race, ethnicity and genetics in medicine. She offered her take on the issue: “If a patient is labeled as ‘multiracial,’ they are included in a group that has extreme genetic diversity and no specificity to any particular genetic roots.”

She argued that the use of a simple “multiracial” category is a reductionist and low-value approach to understanding a patient’s disease risk at the genetic level. “This kind of lump-labeling does a disservice to population and personalized health frameworks that rely on geographic ancestry, versus race, to determine disease risk,” she said.

The medical community continues to debate race as an indicator of social and economic factors, which in turn effect health outcomes. “Health disparities that are present within African American/Black patient populations, may be actually be tied to low socioeconomic status, poor diet, lifestyle habits and other non-genetic determinants of health,” she said.

Looking ahead

Although few and far between, discussions about the benefits of precision medicine for multiracial populations continue to emerge among experts in health law, genomics and medical-legal partnerships. Graham expressed hope that “precision medicine may very well help our population become aware of health disparities, which could be critical to our wellness and healthcare in providing useful information.”

Diversity and inclusion in precision medicine and genetic discovery followed by an overhaul of racially driven clinical guidelines and racial labeling in clinical settings appear to be key actions needed to address these health care challenges for multiracial populations.

Dr. Clayborne believes that, as the precision and personalized medicine movement grows – due to advances in genomic sequencing –  the medical community could eventually steer away from racial categories to focus more on individual family history and known genetic markers for disease.

Rachele Hendricks-Sturrup holds a doctor of health science degree and is a freelance health science writer. Follow her at her website or on Twitter @AcesoIngenuity

Book Review

Enemies in Love: A German POW, a Black Nurse, and an Unlikely Romance

By Alexis Clark

Book Review by Susan Graham

Enemies in Love, published by The New Press, is hardly a typical romance novel. It’s the story of Elinor Powell, an Army nurse and Frederick Albert, a German prisoner of war in the 1940s. The first part reads like an academic book and the second half you might think is fiction, but it is very real.

The first surprise is that German POWs were held in camps in remote desert areas of Arizona. The second one is that Black nurses were shunned and made to take care of them. Elinor Powell was one such nurse. This unknown story is a shocking bit of World War II history told in great detail by Alexis Clark.

Elinor Powell and Frederick Albert fell in love and risked being found together in the Jim Crow era. They decided that one way to be together after the war was for Elinor to get pregnant, necessitating Frederick to come back to the states after his release in Germany.

The couple had two biracial sons and this is where the story took a dive for me. The family never spoke about race or identity. Yes, this was the 1950s, but racial issues were talked about, especially in interracial families. The author mistakenly uses biracial, interracial, mixed-race and other terminology in a jumble of stories about the children’s childhood, which is based mostly on the memories of one of the sons. Children’s memories are not always accurate and we have no way of knowing what the truth really is. The family moved a great deal, which can have detrimental effects on children, but their problems seem to mostly be attributed to the fact that they were biracial. Also, there were problems in the marriage, with racial acceptance, with Frederick’s mother and father, and a host of other unfortunate circumstances, yet everything seemed to center on race. They were humans and had other issues, as everyone does.

Enemies in Love is a very worthwhile read and the historical events are fascinating. I recommend it, keeping in mind that times have changed, thank goodness, for interracial families in America.

 

Real American: A Memoir BOOK REVIEW

Book Review by Susan Graham

Real American: A Memoir

Real American

I read a review of Real American: A Memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims in The New York Times yesterday. It said Julie Lythcott-Haims’ new memoir is about growing up biracial. It’s not. It’s about growing up black.

If you want to get really angry, read this book. In fact, it should be required reading for anyone even thinking about being in an interracial relationship and especially parents of multiracial children. In so many ways, it’s a primer on what not to do. To me, as the mother of multiracial children—now adults—it is reassuring that I raised them to embrace their entire heritage.

Lythcott-Haims claims early in the book that her parents had entered into some type of “interracial child experiment that was failing.” Experiment? Would people actually do that? Throughout the book, the author lashes out at her parents—mostly her mother—for any number of ways they let her down and made her identify as black, but in other places, she is proud of her black identity. It’s confusing.

What is very clear is that this biracial woman felt she had to make a choice. She is crazy angry at everyone and everything, yet she doesn’t get that she could have embraced all of her incredibly stunning heritage and, perhaps, celebrated that. No, being biracial is not just a way to acknowledge her white mother, as she says; it is a way of acknowledging herself. She just couldn’t get there.

It angers me that this author didn’t do her homework. She glosses over the entire multiracial movement with an offhand comment about the Census Bureau making “new terms” in the 1990s, as if it was their idea and not that of the many parents who led the action to get the government to even consider counting people as more than one race. We were everywhere and I find it amazing that an interracial family would have been hiding under a rock big enough to miss it entirely.

The author is completely preoccupied with the color of her children, who she refers to as “quadroon children,” “Black,” and “mulatto.” To her, they are more colors than people, which I just don’t understand. That she is angry at the plight of black people in America and all over the world, is obvious—I’m just as angry about it! She would say that wasn’t possible because I’m not black. Not true. Black lives matter to me, too. Multiracial lives matter to me, as well.

Much of what Lythcott-Haims is trying to say is that what matters is how other people see you. If they see you as black, you are black. As my son told congress, it is how he sees himself that matters. Does he know other people see him as black? Absolutely. Interracial families are not blind and stupid. We teach our children about all of their cultures and how people might look at them and classify them on their personal color scale. We get it; we live it, too.

The one thing the author and I agree on is that racism will never go away and that is why everyone needs to read about those of us who have been through it. You’ll have to read about both sides, search your heart, make your own decisions, and neither the author nor I can make it for you. I respect that you may choose for your children to identify as only one race. I just wish more people would respect that they may choose to be multiracial.

 

 

New People – Book Review

Book Review

New People by Danzy Senna

New People

New People is about a multiracial woman named Maria. These are some of the terms she uses for multiracial people:

Miscellaneous People

Mulatto (her favorite word, which means little mule) and Mulatta

Multiracial

Biracial

The “N” Word

Odd, twisted girls

Racially nebulous

Quadroon

Negro

Born again black people

Butterscotch

Mestizo Abandoner

Mixed

“Everything” and

my least favorite, “Mutt.”

She also says things like, “Being black and looking white was enough of a freak show” and “He was embracing his black identity.” Apparently, biracial people can absolutely not embrace their white identity. So passing for black is fine; passing for white is not.

 

It’s as if the author, Danzy Senna, had plugged biracial into every thesaurus she could find and then used the words over and over ad nauseam. Maria measures everything and everyone by race and wouldn’t you know she is engaged to a biracial man, but falls for a black poet. I suppose that’s the premise of the book. By the way, the term New People was not invented by Senna. It was also a magazine that was started in the 1980s by Yvette Walker-Hollis.

 

I realize that a lot of readers think this book is quite funny. A review in Essence magazine thinks it’s hysterical. There is that. I also watched a new “comedy” on Netflix last week with a biracial character. Many “jokes” were made at his expense because he was biracial. His mother repeats several times that she hopes for “butterscotch babies.” Why is it suddenly OK to make jokes about the multiracial community?

 

When I read fiction, I ask myself about a quarter into the book if I care about the characters. In New People, I knew by page 14 that I didn’t care what happened to these people. I re-check half way through and with this book, things only got worse. Other reviewers of Danzy Senna’s works do not share my opinion. She and her book are being heavily promoted and praised. She is clearly the biracial darling of the moment. I read most books about multiracial people because of my work with Project RACE and the multiracial community. I can honestly say no person I have ever met—multiracial or otherwise—is preoccupied 100 percent of the time with race, like Maria. They are usually the people who scream, “There is no such thing as race because it’s a social construct,” but they are the same people who give you an entire host of words about the multiracial community. You may want to think about that for a moment.

 

To be fair, if you are looking for a book that presents an entire population as screwed up, also with no scientific basis, New People should fit into your life perfectly.

 

Susan Graham

 

Ten Reasons

Ten Reasons Why White Mothers Can Raise Multiracial Children:

by Susan Graham

Ryan and me

  1. We conceived or adopted our children and we knew exactly what we were doing.
  1. We are fully capable of raising our children as equals with their other monoracial or multiracial siblings.
  1. We do not have to be the same color as our child to give them the history and knowledge of their other ancestry or ancestries.
  1. We know how to say, “No thank you; my child does not need you to tell her what she is.”
  1. We know and respect how President Obama chose to self-identify (as black). He could have identified as multiracial, but that wasn’t his Do not “Barack Obama” my multiracial children.
  1. We can say without laughing, “Yes, I’m the mom. Want to set up a play date for our kids?”
  1. We can say, “I learned how to do my child’s hair” or “I found it was easier to have someone else do my daughter’s hair.”
  1. We will stand up for our children’s right to be included on forms that require racial and ethnic identity.
  1. We fully understand the question, “What are they?” We can choose to answer any way we like and can explain one more time that the thing called the one-drop rule is not a law.
  1. We can happily live without you if you’ve programmed your family to be uncomfortable around our family.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Kitchen House

written by Kathleen Grissom

Publisher: Touchstone

385 Pages
The-Kitchen-House
       
         Take everything you think you know about plantations in Virginia before the Civil War, slavery, color hierarchy, masters, mistresses, children, racial codes, and open your mind to a new and different story. Lavinia McCarten is seven-yearsold when she is orphaned during passage from Ireland making her way to America. Lavinia McCarten is white and becomes an indentured servant at the kitchen house of the grand tobacco plantation. She is to live with the other slaves, black and mulatto, under the watchful eyes of Belle—the illegitimate slave daughter of the master.
        Lavinia must spend her most formative years trying to make sense of liveand relationships between the Kitchen house and the very different kind of hierarchy in the Big house. Lives get sorted and sordid between the residents of both homes.
        Secrets unfold and discoveries are made. Growing into womanhood, Lavinia finds herself wanting to stay with her coloredfamily, but others have plans for to marry within her race as a white woman.
        The Kitchen House will surprise and shock; you will feel open, raemotions as well as the reserved and perhaps better contained survivareactions of all of the well-drawn characters in this finely-written story that will never quite leave you.
     – Reviewed by Susan Graham

THX! Another Incredible Multiracial Heritage Wk

THANK YOU!

 

Multiracial Heritage Week 2016 has been fantastic! Thanks so much to the following:

 

  • All of the volunteers across the country who helped make MHW16 such a success by contacting their governors.
  • The state lawmakers and their staffs for all the help with proclamations and resolutions.
  • The media for giving us local and national coverage.
  • Kelly Baldwin for all she does for multiracial children and interracial families.
  • Karson Baldwin, President of Project RACE Kids, who can always be counted on to do whatever is needed.
  • Our wonderful Project RACE Teens, especially Lexi Brock and Makensie McDaniel co-presidents and Dionna Roberson, VP.
  • Patti Barry, our Project RACE Grandparents President.
  • Filmmaker Tay Erikson for the best video ever!
  • The Project RACE Advisory Board for all your help and great advice.
  • The K&F Baxter Family Foundation for funding us for so many Multiracial Heritage Week efforts.
  • The anonymous donor, you know who you are, what you gave and how grateful we are.
  • All of our wonderful families who make it possible for us to do our work.
  • My son, Ryan, for always giving me good advice.
  • My husband, Sam; my pup, Sonny; and Kim Carlucci, all of whom took excellent care of me so I could thank all of you.

Susan

Podcast Guest

 

Multiracial Family Man

 

I had a great time being the guest on comic Alex Barnett’s popular podcast, “Multiracial Family Man.” Alex makes interviews informative and fun! You can listen to the interview by going the Multiracial Family Man website www.alexbarnettcomic.com at “Latest Blog Posts.”

or on itunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ep.-23-susan-graham-project/id969793342?i=347994432&mt=2

Hope you enjoy the show!

Susan Graham

White Privilege

 

The Thing about White Privilege

I saw this recently:

“I’m proud to be black,” said a black man.

“I’m proud to be Asian,” said an Asian man.

“I’m proud to be white,” said a racist.

So here’s the thing: I’m tired of the way people talk about white privilege as if we all grew up as Kennedys or Rockefellers. I know that “white privilege” means more than wealth, it means the ability to do things people of other races can’t do, but that’s not specific to bathrooms and drinking fountains anymore, so I’m not sure exactly what is.

I live in a community that is 70% Hispanic. I can’t communicate with people who only speak Spanish, as many do. When I walk into a store and am—or what looks to be—the only non-Hispanic person there (by Census definition), I don’t exactly feel at home. I have seen Hispanic women pull their children a little closer when I smile at them. Yeah, you need to consider this stuff when you’re white.

I also know that if I ever am on trial in my county, there will not be a jury of my racial peers and I will be a disadvantaged white woman. Yes, I know what it’s like to be the only one in the room. It happens every day. I have taken some criticism for many things in the multiracial movement, usually from the academic circle, but now they want to attack me for being a white woman? It sounds pretty racist to me. 

A new phenomenon is occurring between racial groups. It’s called “The Knockout Game,” and apparently is perpetrated by young minority groups who attack people on the street—mostly people who are white, older, and Jewish. I could qualify as a victim. It amounts to random acts of violence against a group to which I belong, carried out by another racial or ethnic group, most specifically young black males. It does not make white people sleep better at night if they have to go out in public the next day.

In discussions about white privilege, people tend to bring in what is known as “sense of entitlement.” It always reminds me of one of my father’s favorite sayings when we were kids: “You can stay here as long as you want, but when you leave, you leave with what you came with.” The implications were not to plan on ever moving back and don’t take any of Dad’s stuff with you. These mandates did not instill a “sense of entitlement” in my brothers and me. However, it did help us become four very self-reliant individuals.   

Unlike some of folks, I have lived in many different places and met very different people.

f you’re white does it automatically make you a racist? I know plenty of racists who aren’t white. It’s unacceptable no matter what race you are or what public pulpit you have.

I don’t understand why some very vocal people who claim to be in the multiracial community are attacking “privileged white women.”  While it’s true that my ancestors did not have hundreds of years of racial baggage in the United States, it’s also true that they were treated inhumanely in other parts of the world. I’m not responsible for what was done to your ancestors any more than you’re responsible for mine.

Also, you assume I am one hundred percent white. Is that because you’re scared that you and I might find out we’re related? What I do know is that I’ll have one of those popular DNA tests done one day and might discover some other racial or ethnic background in my genes. I might also find out some important medical information while I’m at it.

Yes, of course I understand that people who are not white are often made to feel lesser than whites; but I was never taught how to do that—so I don’t.

Do I notice people by the way they look? Sure, I do, and I bet you do too. However, that doesn’t mean I treat them as any more or less privileged than they treat me. Does the fact that I’m white mean that all my neighbors accept me, that my children were never discriminated against in schools, that I have never been asked to show my ID, or that I felt the clerk at a big box store today was helping me last?

Someone said that white privilege means you can walk the Earth unaware of your color. I don’t believe anyone can do that, yet we should all be able to.

There is also a misunderstanding about white people, that we can go wherever we want, whenever we’d like and do just about anything we want, and non-white people can’t. That’s just not true. I have been discriminated against because of my religion, where I live, the color of my skin and hair, my disabilities, my age, due to the fact that I’m a woman, and more. But I don’t feel that everyone who is black, Asian, Hindu, male,  able-bodied, and young discriminates against me. But if you do, I’m going hold you accountable, not a group that you belong to.    

I don’t like being a racial target any more than you do, so if you have a problem with me specifically, let me know; otherwise, you’re putting me in a group when you don’t want to be lumped into one yourself. Think about it.

 

Susan Graham