Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom, United States on 2021-03-06 22:31Z by Steven

Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

Harper Perennial (an imprint of Harper Collins)
304 pages
Trade Paperback ISBN: 9780063009486
E-book ISBN: 9780063009493
Audiobook ISBN: 9780063009509

Georgina Lawton

Raised in sleepy English suburbia, Georgina Lawton was no stranger to homogeneity. Her parents were white; her friends were white; there was no reason for her to think she was any different. But over time her brown skin and dark, kinky hair frequently made her a target of prejudice. In Georgina’s insistently color-blind household, with no acknowledgement of her difference or access to black culture, she lacked the coordinates to make sense of who she was.

It was only after her father’s death that Georgina began to unravel the truth about her parentage—and the racial identity that she had been denied. She fled from England and the turmoil of her home-life to live in black communities around the globe—the US, the UK, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Morocco—and to explore her identity and what it meant to live in and navigate the world as a black woman. She spoke with psychologists, sociologists, experts in genetic testing, and other individuals whose experiences of racial identity have been fraught or questioned in the hopes of understanding how, exactly, we identify ourselves.

Raceless is an exploration of a fundamental question: what constitutes our sense of self? Drawing on her personal experiences and the stories of others, Lawton grapples with difficult questions about love, shame, grief, and prejudice, and reveals the nuanced and emotional journey of forming one’s identity.

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Black Autonomy: Race, Gender, and Afro-Nicaraguan Activism

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2016-12-11 14:06Z by Steven

Black Autonomy: Race, Gender, and Afro-Nicaraguan Activism

Stanford University Press
248 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780804799560
Paper ISBN: 9781503600546

Jennifer Goett, Associate Professor of Comparative Cultures and Politics
James Madison College, Michigan State University

Decades after the first multicultural reforms were introduced in Latin America, Afrodescendant people from the region are still disproportionately impoverished, underserved, policed, and incarcerated. In Nicaragua, Afrodescendants have mobilized to confront this state of siege through the politics of black autonomy. For women and men grappling with postwar violence, black autonomy has its own cultural meanings as a political aspiration and a way of crafting selfhood and solidarity.

Jennifer Goett’s ethnography examines the race and gender politics of activism for autonomous rights in an Afrodescedant Creole community in Nicaragua. Weaving together fifteen years of research, Black Autonomy follows this community-based movement from its inception in the late 1990s to its realization as an autonomous territory in 2009 and beyond. Goett argues that despite significant gains in multicultural recognition, Afro-Nicaraguan Creoles continue to grapple with the day-to-day violence of capitalist intensification, racialized policing, and drug war militarization in their territories. Activists have responded by adopting a politics of autonomy based on race pride, territoriality, self-determination, and self-defense. Black Autonomy shows how this political radicalism is rooted in African diasporic identification and gendered cultural practices that women and men use to assert control over their bodies, labor, and spaces in an atmosphere of violence.

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A Rising Voice: Afro-Latin Americans

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Slavery, Women on 2013-04-02 22:34Z by Steven

A Rising Voice: Afro-Latin Americans

Miami Herald
2007-06-10 through 2007-06-24

In this series, the black experience is unveiled through a journey: to Nicaragua, where a quiet but powerful civil and cultural rights movement flickers while in neighboring Honduras, the black Garffuna community fights for cultural survival; to the Dominican Republic where African lineage is not always embraced; to Brazil, home to the world’s second largest population of African descent; to Cuba, where a revolution that promised equality has failed on its commitment to erase racism; and to Colombia, where the first black general serves as an example of Afro-Latin American achievements.

Part 1: Nicaragua and Honduras: Afro-Latin Americans: A rising voice
Audra D.S. Burch
A close-up look at a simmering civil rights movement in a tiny port settlement along Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast.

…To appreciate the story of race here, is to understand the kaleidoscopic legacy of slavery, the historic demonization and denial of blackness and the practice of racial mixing.

This portrait is complicated by the lack of reliable census data because of traditional undercounting and because some blacks decline to identify themselves as such.

The dynamic along the coast is a layered quilt of Miskitos, mestizos and blacks. The ancestors of other Afro-Nicaraguans were free blacks who immigrated from Jamaica and other Caribbbean countries, lured by the good, steady jobs available for English speakers.

Stories abound about people who have hidden behind ambiguously brown complexions, “passing” for Miskito Indians, or mestizo.

“It’s hard to mobilize when you are still recouping the identity and just starting to openly use the term black,” says [Juliet] Hooker, the University of Texas professor whose father was a regional councilman…

Part 2: Dominican Republic: Black denial
Frances Robles
An examination on the sensitive nature of racial definition in a nation with inextricable ties to Africa.

SANTO DOMINGO—Yara Matos sat still while long, shiny locks from China were fastened, bit by bit, to her coarse hair.

Not that Matos has anything against her natural curls, even though Dominicans call that pelo malo—bad hair.

But a professional Dominican woman just should not have bad hair, she said. “If you’re working in a bank, you don’t want some barrio-looking hair. Straight hair looks elegant,” the bank teller said. “It’s not that as a person of color I want to look white.   I want to look pretty.”

And to many in the Dominican Republic, to look pretty is to look less black.

Dominican hairdressers are internationally known for the best hair-straightening techniques. Store shelves are lined with rows of skin whiteners, hair relaxers and extensions.

Racial identification here is thorny and complex, defined not so much by skin color but by the texture of your hair, the width of your nose and even the depth of your pocket.  The richer, the “whiter.” And, experts say, it is fueled by a rejection of anything black…

Part 3: Brazil: A Great Divide
Jack Chang
Black Brazilians speak out and push for affirmative action laws in the hemisphere’s most Africanized nation.

…And Brazilians are finally discussing race after decades of telling themselves and the rest of the world that the country was free from racism, said Sen. Paulo Paim, author of one of the pending affirmative-action bills.

“The Brazilian elite says this is not a racist country, but if you look at whatever social indicator, you’ll see exclusion is endemic,” he said. “We want to open up to more Brazilians the legitimate spaces they deserve…

…”I have never seen any evidence that suggests anything other than there’s widespread racism in Brazil,” said UCLA sociology professor Edward Telles, who studies race in Brazil…

…Black leaders also blame what they describe as decades of self-censorship about race spurred by the “racial democracy” vision of their country, which long defined Brazilian self-identity.

Preached in the early 20th century by sociologist Gilberto Freyre, the vision depicted a Brazil that was freeing itself of racism and even of the concept of race through pervasive mixing of the races…

Part 4: Cuba: A barrier for Cuba’s blacks
Miami Herald Staff Report
Economic and political apartheid are alive in Cuba, despite a revolution launched in 1959 that promised equality.


Cuba’s official statistics offer little help on the race issue. The 2002 census, which asked Cubans whether they were white, black or mestizo/mulatto, showed 11 percent of the island’s 11.2 million people described themselves as black. The real figure is more like 62 percent, according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.

And the published Census figures provide no way at all to compare blacks and whites in categories like salary or educational levels. Ramón Colás, who left Cuba in 2001 and now runs an Afro-Cuba race-relations project in Mississippi, said he once carried out his own telling survey: Five out of every 100 private vehicles he counted in Havana were driven by a Cuban of color.

The disparity between the census’ 11 percent and UM’s 62 percent also reflects the complicated racial categories in a country where if you look white you are considered white, no matter the genes.

“You know, there are seven different types of blacks in Cuba,” said Denny, who now works as a waiter but dreams of a hip-hop career. From darkest to lightest, they are: negro azul, prieto, moreno, mulato, trigueño, jabao and blanconaso

Part 5: Achievers: Racism takes many hues
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
An overview on the achievement of black leaders in the region. And a personal essay by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.

…Which brings us back to that earnestly debated question: Who is black?


The question is more complex than an American might believe. In Brazil, a nation of indigenous peoples and descendants of African slaves, European colonists and immigrants, a dark-skinned man who might automatically be called black elsewhere has a racial vocabulary that allows him to skirt the Africa in his heritage altogether. He can call himself moreno (racially mixed), mestizo (colored) or pardo (medium brown). Anything but “afrodescendente” (Africa-descended) or negro (black)…

..Brazil likes to think of itself as a racial democracy, says Miriam Leitao, but that’s a delusion. She has, she says, been making that argument for 10 years and has become one of the nation’s most controversial journalists in the process.

When she writes about racism in Brazil, people tell her she’s crazy. “I don’t know how to explain the thing that, for me, is so obvious,” she says


Read the entire series here.

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Disparate Diasporas: Identity and Politics in an African-Nicaraguan Community

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-03-13 23:10Z by Steven

Disparate Diasporas: Identity and Politics in an African-Nicaraguan Community

University of Texas Press
August 1998
320 pages
ISBN-10: 0292728190; ISBN-13: 978-0292728196

Edmund Gordon, Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas, Austin

This book is out of print.

Based on a decade the author spent among the African-Caribbean “Creole” people on Nicaragua’s southern Caribbean coast, Disparate Diasporas is a study of identity formation and politics in that community. Edmund Gordon lived in Bluefields, Nicaragua, during most of the 1980s, a turbulent period during which he participated in the community’s search for solutions to problems ranging from a crumbling economic base to the mutual mistrust and animosity between most Creole people and the Sandinista revolutionary government.

Disparate Diasporas is not a conventional ethnography. Rather than being just an observer, Gordon actively participated in the life of the community, intent on contributing to its political processes. A basic premise of his book is that engagement and activity can enhance ethnographic insights and sharpen theoretical understanding.

Disparate Diasporas shows how a particular “Black” community can evolve distinct types of diasporic consciousness, and, depending on the historical moment, how different types of memories, consciousness, and politics come to predominate. The author uses the Gramscian notion of “common sense” to understand the Creole community’s history of shifting politics and ideologies, focusing on the period of the 1970s and 1980s. His work explains the inability of the Sandinistas to come to terms with the racial and cultural challenge to the Nicaraguan nation posed by the Creole community.

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To Die in this Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of Mestizaje, 1880-1965

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science on 2011-12-12 01:47Z by Steven

To Die in this Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of Mestizaje, 1880-1965

Duke University Press
336 pages
11 b&w photographs, 2 maps
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-2098-2
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2084-5

Jeffrey L. Gould, Rudy Professor of History
Indiana University, Bloomington

Challenging the widely held belief that Nicaragua has been ethnically homogeneous since the nineteenth century, To Die in This Way reveals the continued existence and importance of an officially “forgotten” indigenous culture. Jeffrey L. Gould argues that mestizaje—a cultural homogeneity that has been hailed as a cornerstone of Nicaraguan national identity—involved a decades-long process of myth building.

Through interviews with indigenous peoples and records of the elite discourse that suppressed the expression of cultural differences and rationalized the destruction of Indian communities, Gould tells a story of cultural loss. Land expropriation and coerced labor led to cultural alienation that shamed the indigenous population into shedding their language, religion, and dress. Beginning with the 1870s, Gould historicizes the forces that prompted a collective movement away from a strong identification with indigenous cultural heritage to an “acceptance” of a national mixed-race identity.

By recovering a significant part of Nicaraguan history that has been excised from the national memory, To Die in This Way critiques the enterprise of third world nation-building and thus marks an important step in the study of Latin American culture and history that will also interest anthropologists and students of social and cultural historians.

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