Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sorry for my absence!!!!

I know I've been absent. Much to comment on, but not much time. Making like the hands in the picture. I'll be back, maybe my guest posters will pick up some slack for a brotha.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

White like me!

"Can you make me white?" -Alleged question asked by Dr. Dre to Suge Knight

A couple of years ago, I heard Suge Knight explain in an interview that he told Dr. Dre he could get him anything he wanted. In response, Dr. Dre responded, "could you make me white?" At the time, I definitely took it as a Suge story that he had concocted alone in prison (which it likely still is), but now thanks to the rise of "recreational genomics" it may be possible for Dr. Dre to become White! Kinda... The NY Times' story "Seeking Ancestry in DNA Ties" weaves a frightening story about the ways many people are pursuing their geneology.
Driving the pursuit of genetic bounty are start-up testing companies with names like DNA Tribes and Ethnoancestry. For $99 to $250, they promise to satisfy the human hunger to learn about one's origins — and sometimes much more. On its Web site, a leader in this cottage industry, DNA Print Genomics, once urged people to use it "whether your goal is to validate your eligibility for race-based college admissions or government entitlements.

A couple of years back, my interest was peaked in racial admixture tests, but they were largely inaccessible to the general public. I had read about them in scientific journals. Hell, I even joked that I was going to test a friend of mine whose "pigment and facial features" made me leary he was purely European. But I didn't think these ancestry test would so quickly evolve into mechanisms of privilege.

For Americans, or rich people at large, if you can fork over the money, you too can find a genetic footprint that may take you back to find some "minority blood." I think it's interesting how the Times piece, for the most part, concentrates on Whites finding ancestors of color, while Gates' African-American Lives uncovered the prevalence of European ancestory among African-Americans.

Ultimately, the attempt to reduce race and ethnicity to scientific categories is going to be flawed. Though one may be able to trace their lineage to a given people, identification of a point of origin does not inherently make one a member of that group. Basic social identity research has demonstrated that repeatedly. By attempting to cash in on the "science" of race, we're sidestepping what race and ethnicity mean historically and contemporarily. Lester Monts, U of M Senior Vice Provost comments, "If someone appears to be white and then finds out they are not, they haven't experienced the kinds of things that affirmative action is supposed to remedy." I've seen one website already say this diverges from the argument used in the Supreme Court decisions. *News Flash* legal arguments by a University and individual comments of University employees may vary. Using "science" to determine race is imprecise and does nothing to address the issue of lived experience. Some argue lived experience is the catalyst for the rationale of diversity. Until they can test if you've lived as a Black, Brown, etc. person I don't see (bad) science coming into the admission process in a substantial way (besides the defrauding that folks are using right now to get into school).

Now a high cost alternative to recreation genomics (doesn't that term just remind you too much of eugenics?) Black. White. The show is now over, I've pretty much reserved comment. Well here is my take, I LOVED IT!!!! Okay, so the show concept was decent, the make-up sucked (except in the case of Rose), and the people were poorly matched, but I think it was great. For me, it marked one of the best public examples of how not to have discussions about race. Steps to developing an under-developed dialogue on race:
1)paint people the opposite color
2)pick people who are assured their beliefs about race are correct
3)follow them with a large camera crew
4)have them reveal their "true" identities half way through the experiment
5)let them battle out their race issues without guided conversation (with the exception of two appearances by a therapist type person)
6) Stir and you end up with a terrible show

If I learned one thing from Black. White. it's that I now have a perfect example for lectures of general perceptions of racism. Bruno is it. Unless someone walked up to Bruno, called him a nigger, told him they called him a nigger because he had Black skin, and they didn't like him because of his black skin alone (remember can't be anything else like dress, walk, social class) then there isn't racism. Sheez. Well the show if nothing else reminds me of what my old computer programming buddies used to tell me "shit in, you get shit out."

Black and Blue

I needed a title and a semi-coherent link for these short blurbs!

Up first- Blue Devils and the DNA results. Gracias to Anon for posting a comment that informed me of the DNA evidence. I've been working some long hours and haven't been able to keep up moment by moment. My quick opinion is that a lack of DNA evidence does not necessarily mean a sexual assault or rape did not occur. I'm not the first to suggest this, so I'll let you all take a look around the net and on CNN, etc. for a more detailed explanation of this. To my knowledge the case is still eligible to be filed. Some have said the DNA evidence exonerates the Duke Lacrosse Team, but I think this may be a result of a little too much CSI on our parts. It will be interesting to see what the next couple of days bring. Regardless of the case, I think it remains really address that:
Race still matters! Obviously this incident has heightened Duke's sensibilities to the importance of race. The issues of "town and gown" are real. I am however disappointed that not enough people are talking about the relationship between HBCU's (NCCU) and PWI's (Duke). This still seems like a pink elephant in the room.

On the Go Blue front, I neglected to post that next year's president of the Michigan Student Assembly is Nicole Stallings, a Black woman. Congratulations Nicole. But my decision not to post on it was related partially to laziness and partially to her invitation to Michigamua, one of U of M's senior "secret" honor societies. Michigamua has a long sorted history with relations to Native folks. In light of all this controversy, they publicly announced the members of their last two "prides" (though some pride members' names are missing or recently dropped... wonder why?). They will announce a name change in the near future (in the meantime Goodspeedupdate is hosting a naming contest, go contribute). There will be a documentary run on them tomorrow also.

I'm not convinced that a name change will do away with their history. Nor am I convinced that they have likely flushed out their racial issues. I know a number of people have questioned why some people or communities can't just "get over" the organizations use of race and move forward. I believe in transparency, when that is delivered, I'll believe they are being straight forward. History has a way of repeating itself.

Onto the Black... Studies side of things. Today and Friday the Center for African and Afroamerican Studies at U of M is presenting a conference to honor the 35th anniversary of the center in honor of Harold Cruse. I'll be checking out some of the events, good food for thought.

Aight, off to sleep, much work to be done... trying to get that degree, ya heard?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

500 Words is Not Enough

The people who genuinely need to read this post may never see it. I contributed to a piece for The Michigan Daily about self segregation. In it I try to explain a little about what is now being referred to as "the Black Hole"--you know, the mass of Black people in a public space that seems to constantly attract more Black people. I agree with everything I said in the piece, otherwise I wouldn't have wrote it, but I'm not exactly sure this phrase came out correctly:

"I also relish the opportunity to be around other intelligent black people. Since this is the University of Michigan, a vast majority of us aspire to heighten our consciousness.

Sadly, that may not be the case for other parts of the world. The fatalist in me fears that I'll never be around such a concentration of scholastically inclined black people ever again."

My time at the University has been my first experience dealing with so many intellectual Black people. And I do fear that outside of the context of the University I will never find Black people this accepting and supportive of my own intellectual pursuits.

That being said, I don't know how I feel about contributing to the notion that there are masses of dumb Black people roaming the non-Ivory Tower-lined streets--a notion which can be implied by my aforementioned fears. I only had 500 words so I didn't have space to adequately qualify my sentiments.

I don't want to be an elitist. I know there are non-academics who are extremely intelligent. My Grandfather was a bus driver in Detroit and he happened to be a genius, I'm sure he wasn't the only one. Of course, my Grandfather probably would have been an academic had he not had to deal with being a Black youth in the Great Depression and all of the stuff that entailed, but I digress.

Also of note in the piece is that all of the students are minorities of some sort. I didn't know who was going to be contributing but I was hoping for at least one white person. Instead there are three Black males (including myself), one international student who appears to be from the Indian sub-continent of Asia, and one half white/half Latino person who for the last several years has been embracing his Latino side. This fantastic representation makes it seem as though only non-whites are doing the self-segregating. As though white people in no way contribute to the clumping based on ethnic lines in the world. That's ridiculous. But I can't criticize the Daily because I work for them so I'd better stop now. I think I have authorization to post on the Daily's blogs so maybe I'll try to put a version of this up there. Until next time, Peace and God Bless.

edit: I have successfully posted to the Michigan Daily blogs. The message is slightly different. If you want to comment just go here

-David Betts