mdawkins's blog

Book Review: Burying Don Imus

In Burying Don Imus, Awkward argues persuasively that Imus forgot “that big business and media corporations can tolerate association with virtually anyone who can increase their earnings or cultural capital . . . except a person widely recognized as a racist” (p. 135). But that is only part of Awkward’s story.

Book Review: Everything But the Burden

If the great problem of the twentieth century has been the problem of the color line, then a century later, the only color that seems to matter is green. In Everything But the Burden, Greg Tate and his team of writers take on various aspects of American popular culture, from Muhammad Ali to Pablo Picasso and imperialism, interracial sex, cornrows, pimpology, thugging, capitalistic exploitation, and racial transvestitism. As the title suggests, the underpinning thread of the text is that the only aspect of black culture that whites cannot appropriate is the burden of being black.

Taking "Superman" to School

...full-text also available on Truthdig and The Huffington Post

The greatest thing about public school is that it is, in fact, public. Anyone can attend and everyone has the opportunity to achieve. I have been a public school student and educator and I’ve had the privilege of encountering learners of all kinds: from brilliant artists, math whizzes and persuasive communicators to those who can barely read or need calculators to figure out the answer to 1 x 9. As a result, I think my experience in public education is similar to that of many of my dedicated colleagues across the nation: both highly rewarding and deeply depressing.

The Powers and Problems of Passing as a Boy

...full-text also available on The Huffington Post

While conducting research for my forthcoming book on passing-- the fact of being accepted, or representing oneself successfully as, a member of a different group--I came across the amazing story of Ellen and William Craft. The Crafts were an enslaved couple who escaped when Ellen passed as Mr. Johnson--a wealthy, white, disabled master--who was attended by William, his slave in 1848. After a series of harrowing encounters aboard, trains, boats and carriage rides over the course of four days, the Crafts arrived in Philadelphia and ultimately escaped to London. The Crafts became what we might now call “reality stars” as they gained media attention from antislavery and mainstream press. They told their story in the book Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, and donated the proceeds to further the abolitionist cause.

Making Missippi A Little More "Mixed and Happy"

...full text also available on The Huffington Post

Last week, Nettleton Middle School was forced to drop its 30-year policy of race-based selections for school government and homecoming positions. The selection rules were brought to light by Brandy Springer, a mother of four multiracial children in Nettleton, Mississippi. Springer, a recent transplant from Florida, said her daughter was told the office of sixth-grade class reporter at Nettleton Middle School was available only to black students this year. "My daughter came home from school telling me that she wanted to try out for the school reporter, but it is only open to black students... They told her she should run for class president, [but] that was open to only white students."

The State of Our Interracial Unions

...full text also available on Truthdig

By now it’s common knowledge that Dr. Laura Schlessinger left her long-running radio show recently after an N-bomb-dropping tirade. Basing her choice of words on unnamed “black guys” and “bul-lack comics” on HBO who “say it all the time,” the host instructed caller Jade to toughen up when it comes to issues of race and racism—even when they’re happening at home.

Obama on the Color Line

...full text also available on Truthdig and on The Huffington Post

In his first major comment on race and race relations in our nation since his “A More Perfect Union Speech” on March 18, 2008, President Barack Obama called for frank discussion about race last week. In both a speech to the National Urban League and on the ABC daytime talk show “The View,” the president talked about race relations in the context of the political controversy over last month’s firing of longtime Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod.

Black, White and Other... Worldwide

...full text also available on The Huffington Post

Even though the 21st century is seeing an exponential increase in reports of multiracial ancestry worldwide, exactly what makes a person multiracial remains a puzzling concept. According to advocacy groups like the Association of Multiethnic Americans and Project RACE, the definition of a(n) multiracial/interracial person is either someone whose parents were of more than one race or racial background, or someone who had parents that were of different racial groups. But what about those who identify with more than one racial background, irrespective of their parents’ identities? Or, those who identify with a racial background completely different from those of their parents?

Racism Reconsidered

...full text also available on Truthdig

Whether the election and presidency of Barack Obama has brought about lasting political change has yet to be seen. What is visible so far is that by electing Obama our nation has made a major breakthrough by overcoming racial and ethnic prejudice. For some, Obama’s presidency means that we’ve gotten beyond race, and therefore we’ve also gotten beyond racism. After all, we have a president who identified as African-American on the 2010 census. In Obama’s America, negative connotations of race are but a relic of the past. But does this mean that it’s now fair game to play the race card in ways that might have been considered politically incorrect before Obama’s election?

Race in the News Coverage of Religion

...a chapter written for The Oxford Handbook of Religion & News

Narratives of race and religion have been intertwined in headlines and the ideals of “a chosen people” and “a chosen nation.” These ideals, of various social groups and countries believing themselves to be selected uniquely by God to prosper, proselytize and lead, generate important questions for news media. Some of these questions are philosophical: How is religion practiced along racial and ethnic lines? Is religion used to justify racism and/or racial privilege? Does religion inherently resist racism? Others are practical: Is it the case that the more devout the religious practitioner, the more extreme the racial pride and/or racism?