What Biracial People Know

Credit Lynnie Z.

After the nation’s first black president, we now have a white president with the whitest and malest cabinet since Ronald Reagan’s. His administration immediately made it a priority to deport undocumented immigrants and to deny people from certain Muslim-majority nations entry into the United States, decisions that caused tremendous blowback.

What President Trump doesn’t seem to have considered is that diversity doesn’t just sound nice, it has tangible value. Social scientists find that homogeneous groups like his cabinet can be less creative and insightful than diverse ones. They are more prone to groupthink and less likely to question faulty assumptions.

What’s true of groups is also true for individuals. A small but growing body of research suggests that multiracial people are more open-minded and creative. Here, it’s worth remembering that Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, wasn’t only the nation’s first black president, he was also its first biracial president. His multitudinous self was, I like to think, part of what made him great — part of what inspired him when he proclaimed that there wasn’t a red or blue America, but a United States of America.

As a multiethnic person myself — the son of a Jewish dad of Eastern European descent and a Puerto Rican mom — I can attest that being mixed makes it harder to fall back on the tribal identities that have guided so much of human history, and that are now resurgent. Your background pushes you to construct a worldview that transcends the tribal.

You’re also accustomed to the idea of having several selves, and of trying to forge them into something whole. That task of self-creation isn’t unique to biracial people; it’s a defining experience of modernity. Once the old stories about God and tribe — the framing that historically gave our lives context — become inadequate, on what do we base our identities? How do we give our lives meaning and purpose?

President Trump has answered this challenge by reaching backward — vowing to wall off America and invoking a whiter, more homogeneous country. This approach is likely to fail for the simple reason that much of the strength and creativity of America, and modernity generally, stems from diversity. And the answers to a host of problems we face may lie in more mixing, not less.

Consider this: By 3 months of age, biracial infants recognize faces more quickly than their monoracial peers, suggesting that their facial perception abilities are more developed. Kristin Pauker, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and one of the researchers who performed this study, likens this flexibility to bilingualism.

Early on, infants who hear only Japanese, say, will lose the ability to distinguish L’s from R’s. But if they also hear English, they’ll continue to hear the sounds as separate. So it is with recognizing faces, Dr. Pauker says. Kids naturally learn to recognize kin from non-kin, in-group from out-group. But because they’re exposed to more human variation, the in-group for multiracial children seems to be larger.

This may pay off in important ways later. In a 2015 study, Sarah Gaither, an assistant professor at Duke, found that when she reminded multiracial participants of their mixed heritage, they scored higher in a series of word association games and other tests that measure creative problem solving. When she reminded monoracial people about their heritage, however, their performance didn’t improve. Somehow, having multiple selves enhanced mental flexibility.

But here’s where it gets interesting: When Dr. Gaither reminded participants of a single racial background that they, too, had multiple selves, by asking about their various identities in life, their scores also improved. “For biracial people, these racial identities are very salient,” she told me. “That said, we all have multiple social identities.” And focusing on these identities seems to impart mental flexibility irrespective of race.

It may be possible to deliberately cultivate this kind of limber mind-set by, for example, living abroad. Various studies find that business people who live in other countries are more successful than those who stay put; that artists who’ve lived abroad create more valuable art; that scientists working abroad produce studies that are more highly cited. Living in another culture exercises the mind, researchers reason, forcing one to think more deeply about the world.

Another path to intellectual rigor is to gather a diverse group of people together and have them attack problems, which is arguably exactly what the American experiment is. In mock trials, the Tufts University researcher Samuel Sommers has found, racially diverse juries appraise evidence more accurately than all-white juries, which translates to more lenient treatment of minority defendants. That’s not because minority jurors are biased in favor of minority defendants, but because whites on mixed juries more carefully consider the evidence.

The point is that diversity — of one’s own makeup, one’s experience, of groups of people solving problems, of cities and nations — is linked to economic prosperity, greater scientific prowess and a fairer judicial process. If human groups represent a series of brains networked together, the more dissimilar these brains are in terms of life experience, the better the “hivemind” may be at thinking around any given problem.

Photo

Credit Lynnie Z.

The opposite is true of those who employ essentialist thinking — in particular, it seems, people who espouse stereotypes about racial groups. Harvard and Tel Aviv University scientists ran experiments on white Americans, Israelis and Asian-Americans in which they had some subjects read essays that made an essentialist argument about race, and then asked them to solve word-association games and other puzzles. Those who were primed with racial stereotypes performed worse than those who weren’t. “An essentialist mind-set is indeed hazardous for creativity,” the authors note.

None of which bodes well for Mr. Trump’s mostly white, mostly male, extremely wealthy cabinet. Indeed, it’s tempting to speculate that the administration’s problems so far, including its clumsy rollout of a travel ban that was mostly blocked by the courts, stem in part from its homogeneity and insularity. Better decisions might emerge from a more diverse set of minds.

And yet, if multiculturalism is so grand, why was Mr. Trump so successful in running on a platform that rejected it? What explains the current “whitelash,” as the commentator Van Jones called it? Sure, many Trump supporters have legitimate economic concerns separate from worries about race or immigration. But what of the white nationalism that his campaign seems to have unleashed? Eight years of a black president didn’t assuage those minds, but instead inflamed them. Diversity didn’t make its own case very well.

One answer to this conundrum comes from Dr. Sommers and his Tufts colleague Michael Norton. In a 2011 survey, they found that as whites reported decreases in perceived anti-black bias, they also reported increasing anti-white bias, which they described as a bigger problem. Dr. Sommers and Dr. Norton concluded that whites saw race relations as a zero-sum game. Minorities’ gain was their loss.

In reality, cities and countries that are more diverse are more prosperous than homogeneous ones, and that often means higher wages for native-born citizens. Yet the perception that out-groups gain at in-groups’ expense persists. And that view seems to be reflexive. Merely reminding whites that the Census Bureau has said the United States will be a “majority minority” country by 2042, as one Northwestern University experiment showed, increased their anti-minority bias and their preference for being around other whites. In another experiment, the reminder made whites more politically conservative as well.

It’s hard to know what to do about this except to acknowledge that diversity isn’t easy. It’s uncomfortable. It can make people feel threatened. “We promote diversity. We believe in diversity. But diversity is hard,” Sophie Trawalter, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, told me.

That very difficulty, though, may be why diversity is so good for us. “The pain associated with diversity can be thought of as the pain of exercise,” Katherine Phillips, a senior vice dean at Columbia Business School, writes. “You have to push yourself to grow your muscles.”

Closer, more meaningful contact with those of other races may help assuage the underlying anxiety. Some years back, Dr. Gaither of Duke ran an intriguing study in which incoming white college students were paired with either same-race or different-race roommates. After four months, roommates who lived with different races had a more diverse group of friends and considered diversity more important, compared with those with same-race roommates. After six months, they were less anxious and more pleasant in interracial interactions. (It was the Republican-Democrat pairings that proved problematic, Dr. Gaither told me. Apparently they couldn’t stand each other.)

Some corners of the world seem to naturally foster this mellower view of race — particularly Hawaii, Mr. Obama’s home state. Dr. Pauker has found that by age 7, children in Massachusetts begin to stereotype about racial out-groups, whereas children in Hawaii do not. She’s not sure why, but she suspects that the state’s unique racial makeup is important. Whites are a minority in Hawaii, and the state has the largest share of multiracial people in the country, at almost a quarter of its population.

Constant exposure to people who see race as a fluid concept — who define themselves as Asian, Hawaiian, black or white interchangeably — makes rigid thinking about race harder to maintain, she speculates. And that flexibility rubs off. In a forthcoming study, Dr. Pauker finds that white college students who move from the mainland to Hawaii begin to think differently about race. Faced daily with evidence of a complex reality, their ideas about who’s in and who’s out, and what belonging to any group really means, relax.

Clearly, people can cling to racist views even when exposed to mountains of evidence contradicting those views. But an optimistic interpretation of Dr. Pauker’s research is that when a society’s racial makeup moves beyond a certain threshold — when whites stop being the majority, for example, and a large percentage of the population is mixed — racial stereotyping becomes harder to do.

Whitelash notwithstanding, we’re moving in that direction. More nonwhite babies are already born than white. And if multiracial people work like a vaccine against the tribalist tendencies roused by Mr. Trump, the country may be gaining immunity. Multiracials make up an estimated 7 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, and they’re predicted to grow to 20 percent by 2050.

President Trump campaigned on a narrow vision of America as a nation-state, not as a state of people from many nations. His response to the modern question — How do we form our identities? — is to grasp for a semi-mythical past that excludes large segments of modern America. If we believe the science on diversity, his approach to problem solving is likely suboptimal.

Many see his election as apocalyptic. And sure, President Trump could break our democracy, wreck the country and ruin the planet. But his presidency also has the feel of a last stand — grim, fearful and obsessed with imminent decline. In retrospect, we may view Mr. Trump as part of the agony of metamorphosis.

And we’ll see Mr. Obama as the first president of the thriving multiracial nation that’s emerging.

Source: New York Times

Taye Diggs on Racial Identity

Taye Diggs’ brave defense of his half-white son

Actor and singer Taye Diggs might be black, but he wants folks to understand that his son, Walker, isn’t — at least not entirely. That’s the message he’s been shopping around as part of a tour to promote his new children’s book, “Mixed Me.”

The tome is both inspired by and intended for kids like 6-year-old Walker, whose mother — Diggs’ former wife, Idina Menzel — is Caucasian. As Diggs sees it, Walker isn’t black, he’s biracial. And both whites and blacks seem equally invested in denying it.

A similar situation befell President Obama — whose mother was white and who decided early in his career to opt in to blackness at the expense of his white half.

Diggs’ decision to embrace his son’s biracial identity is brave — particularly for an African-American. For while America’s “one-drop” rule may have been established by white segregationists, it’s often been embraced by blacks themselves.

Stung by racism and seeking political potency (and safety) in numbers, blacks want to keep as many folks in their fold as possible — all black, half-black or whatever. How else to explain why black leaders were some of the most vocal opponents of the introduction of a “multi-racial” category in the 2000 US Census?

Then there’s the common black contention that all African-Americans are of “mixed” ancestry as a result of miscegenation during slavery. That might be true, but Diggs is speaking of his son being “biracial” — not “multi-racial”; his book focuses on kids whose parents are of two entirely different races, not mixes of many.

For whites, meanwhile, “one drop” helps them do what they’ve always done best — protect their privilege by any means necessary. To them, it’s not so much about who is Caucasian, but rather making it clear who isn’t. This is where “one-drop” comes in — to shut their biracial brethren out of the cultural, historical and economic benefits of whiteness.

Diggs is challenging both of these sentiments and should be applauded for doing so — particularly with nearly 7 percent of Americans describing themselves as mixed-race, according to a June Pew Research study.

No one is suggesting children like Walker should be described as white. But Diggs rightly demands that it’s time folks stop denying that his son is, ultimately, as much white as he is black.

Or, perhaps, even more so — I know from personal experience.

For the first four decades of my life I assumed my genes were equally derived from my white Jewish mother and African-American dad. Sure, like most black families, we knew history had “whitened” my father’s blood line. A great-great-grandfather, for instance, was an Irishman who had almost certainly married his slave (my great-great-grandmother) in antebellum Texas. But it wasn’t until I took the simple genetic test from 23andme that I found out just how whitened our family had become.

The test’s results ranged from the obvious — a predisposition for myopia and overeating — to the startling. For it turns out that genetically, at least, I’m actually 50 percent “more” white than black — 39.1 percent “Sub-Saharan African,” to be precise, compared to 59.1 percent “European.” My mom’s line, as expected, is pretty pure — virtually 100 percent Ashkenazi Jewish. But along with bits of Native American, my father was nearly 20 percent white — far more than we’d ever imagined.

Of course all of this data was just that — numbers and graphs and charts. As cases like Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin illustrate, my 23andme test isn’t going to protect me from racist vigilantes or shield me from bigoted cops. Nor might my newfound “whiteness” exempt me from the history of injustice and inequality that continues to define much of the contemporary African-American experience.

But the results did upend many of the racial preconceptions that had guided my life, causing me — like Diggs — to further question the very notion of racial categorization itself.

Critics of Diggs have dismissed the actor as attempting to “deny” his sons’ blackness, which is both simplistic and untrue. Diggs hasn’t “invented” a white identity for Walker — he hasn’t had to, the kid’s mom is white. Rather, he’s demanding his boy be allowed to claim what is merely a biological fact.

Progressives of all colors insist they respect the right to ethnic self-determination — but that respect seems to wane when it comes to being biracial. In Obama’s case, “choosing” blackness probably helped simplify what was already a complicated and combative political journey. Saying he was “black” — no matter the half-truth — made it easier for Americans of all colors to contend with his historic candidacy. And with (sadly) none of his white family at his side to muddle the message, Obama’s “all-black” narrative was easy to maintain.

Two generations later, Diggs seeks to spare his son from a similarly small-minded fate. America may not yet be truly “post-racial.” But perhaps, as Diggs discusses, the country can begin to accept that biracials are here to stay.

dkaufman@nypost.com

Biases influence how multiracial individuals are categorized

Biases influence how multiracial individuals are categorized
Sample morphed multiracial faces from the racial-categorization task. Credit: Ho et al.

Throughout U.S. history, individuals who were part-white and part-black were typically treated as black, a tendency that has been called the “one-drop rule.”

New University of Michigan research, published in Psychological Science, demonstrates that this bias, also known as hypodescent, persists in the U.S., and is driven in part by anti-black attitudes and beliefs about the genetic basis of .

“Our research offers a window into the psychological mechanisms that govern how we categorize others when we are confronted with individuals who blend identities differing in social status,” said Arnold Ho, U-M assistant professor of psychology and organizational studies.

In the first of two studies, Ho and U-M colleagues Steven Roberts and Susan Gelman surveyed nearly 150  Americans about race, asking respondents about their feelings toward both African-Americans and whites, and about their beliefs concerning whether  are biologically determined.

The researchers also asked survey respondents to categorize multiracials (as relatively black or white, or equally black and white), and found that respondents who believed that racial categories are biologically determined and had negative feelings about African-Americans, were most likely to believe that black-white multiracials are primarily black.

The second study, involving 121 white American participants, was designed to manipulate whether individuals think about race as biologically determined. This study also measured feelings toward African-Americans and whites, and asked participants to categorize 20 racially ambiguous faces as black, black-white multiracial, or white. Participants who were exposed to the idea that race can be biologically determined, and who harbored anti-black biases, were more likely to categorize faces as black, Ho said.

“Multiracial  make up a rapidly growing population, and they often identify in ways that do not reflect traditional ‘‘ or ‘white’ categories,” said Roberts, a U-M doctoral candidate in psychology. “However, our data show that biological concepts of race and intergroup biases prevent people from thinking about race more flexibly.”

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Michelle Obama’s mother said WHAT?!

Michelle Obama’s mom says she was wary of ‘biracial’ Barack, but glad he wasn’t ‘completely white’

An interview Michelle Obama’s mother gave during the 2004 Chicago Senate has resurfaced thanks to a new book about the first lady, and it brings new attention to Marion Robinson‘s misgivings about her daughter’s marriage to the biracial Barack Obama.

Robinson, now 77, said she was wary about her daughter marrying Obama, who had a black father and white mom, but it could have been worse.

“That didn’t concern me as much as had he been completely white,” she said during the interview with WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight,” which was unearthed by Michelle Obama biographer Peter Slevin .

“I guess that I worry about races mixing because of the difficulty, not for, so much for prejudice or anything,” she added. “It’s just very hard.”

Slevin wrote that Obama’s interracial background wasn’t enough to make Robinson oppose the marriage, according to the Daily News.

“Marian, no pushover, was favorably impressed with Barack.” he wrote.

Robinson famously moved in with the first family when they moved into the White House in 2008.

The book, “Michelle Obama: A Life,” is due to hit bookstores April 7.

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

Category: Blog · Tags: , , ,

Hispanics turn white?

Over a million Hispanics turned white between the 2000 and 2010 Census

Research from Carolyn Liebler, Sonya Rastogi, Leticia Fernandez, James Noon, and Sharon Ennis working with anonymized Census data shows that about 8 million Americans changed their race or Hispanic status between the 2000 Census and the 2010 Census. A lot of this is churn. Some people who identify as mixed race in one Census pick a single race in the next, and others go in the other direction.

But one interesting source of net flows is that in their panel of linked data about two million people switched from describing themselves as Hispanic members of “some other race” to being Hispanic members of the white race, while only about one million people switched in the other direction. These figures should be an undercount of what’s in the total population, since not everyone is represented in their set of linked data.

 

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

 

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