Friday, May 30, 2008

Three Pennies And Odd Man Out To Pick Someone's Race

Well, none other than Denmark Vesey stopped in today to leave a comment on my blog trying to lay out the case that "Blackness" ultimately has very little to do with complexion.

He does make a pretty good point, however, I have found myself fascinated by the "cusps" or the "twilight zone" with some individuals who really do seem to be straddling the two groups.

Now that we can run genetic tests and find out how much of one's ancestry is European, African, Far East Asian and Native American, it seems that the "transition line" is somewhere between maybe 25% and 45% sub-Saharan African.

We know that 50% is generally not the dividing line. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has tested at almost exactly 50% African and 50% European. It's pretty likely that Halle Berry and Barack Obama are also almost exactly 50% African and 50% European, and yet they are generally considered "Black", and, the Dean notwithstanding, it doesn't f*ck with your head to think of these ladies and gentlemen as "Black".

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. also had a couple of guests in his African American Lives series who were in the 10 - 16% African range who were decidedly White.

So the admixture where it starts to get "fuzzy" must lie somewhere between roughly between 16 and 50% - I'm guessing somewhere around the 25% sub-Saharan African range.

Now, Denmark Vesey for some reason gets a laugh out of my mention of Lonette McKee, but I'm serious on this one.

I sat through 3/4 of Brewster's Millions not suspecting for a second she was Black until that line where she says, "That's more than alot of hard working people make in a year," and does that Phylicia Rashad head twitch and I just about shot out of my seat - "OMG! This woman is Black!"

Actually I had a quite similar moment a few years ago when I saw Mariah Carey in an interview. I can't remember what it was she said exactly but all of a sudden it hit me - "Not Puerto Rican, not Middle Eastern, plain old Winton Terrace Black."

Well, part of the time anyway - Mariah Carey strikes me as one of the few people who can actually change race at will, but that's another story.

No, this is some serious business.

For reasons I have yet to fully understand, Mrs. Axinar is whiskey bent and hell bound on reproducing.

This creates a very real possibility that some day it's going to be ME and me alone staring at the clerk working on ths birth certificate for this demon spawn of ours.

Now, although I have never been able to get Mrs. Axinar to submit to the admixture test, I'm guessing from various anecdotal sources that we're talking about 3/4 sub-Saharan African mixing with my 7/8 Northern European and 1/8 Armenian. That puts us at about 37.5% sub-Saharan African for Axinar, Jr. - WELL in the "zone of ambiguity".

Denmark Vesey's appraisal doesn't help much because we're looking at - what? - somewhere around age 3 - 4 before a personality forms enough to extract any useful information from that.

Wait a minute - Dean - now I know you've gone deliberately ambiguous in terms of "teaching" your children about their identity, but what DID you do about the birth certificates themselves???


At May 31, 2008 at 8:19 AM, Blogger The Dean of Cincinnati said...

The birth certificate does not make you pick a race. That is either old-fashioned, or a myth.

I do remember, however, a nurse telling me that we would have to put "Black" on the birth certificate -- and so, naturally, I was getting ready for that argument. But when the first born popped out, there was no discussion, no question, and it isn't on there. I just double checked. Gender. Place of birth. Age and name of mother and father. No race.

At May 31, 2008 at 10:07 AM, Blogger Axinar said...

Oh, wow ...

Guess it was the old census forms I was thinking of.

Well, I guess it's still on the census forms but they don't affect anything the individual is eligible for.

Race isn't on the Ohio Driver's license either I just noticed.

Very interesting.

Well, Dean, I guess you're right in part.

Although there's certainly a cultural identification of race, but that's something each individual can decide for him or herself when needed.

At May 31, 2008 at 1:50 PM, Blogger The Dean of Cincinnati said...

Don't you get to pick your own race on the census forms? Surely they don't come around and assign people to different ethnicities!

At May 31, 2008 at 1:52 PM, Blogger The Dean of Cincinnati said...

BTW, a few years back when we tried to stand in line for a CPS magnet school, they said everyone had to decide if they were "African American," or "Not African American."

There appeared more black people in line, so we went with "Not African American."

At May 31, 2008 at 6:05 PM, Blogger Axinar said...

Well, the census is usually done by mail these days.

It's only done once every 10 years so there's a reasonable chance at some point (and I believe this is the case with you) that the child may have been too young to make an independent decision when the census comes around.

Now, I thought for a while there they did have "Multi-racial" on the form or something of the sort.

Now, so far as I know, what you put on the census doesn't matter for what each individual may be eligible for, but it may be of some interest to genealogists in 2082 when the 2010 census is released to the public.

But, this has been very interesting - aside from the census I had not realized how late it would be before anyone had to "declare" a race for any sort of "official" purposes.

Speaking of which ... you talk about trying to sign up for a magnet school, but did you have to declare a race for your eldest son when he started school?

At May 31, 2008 at 10:22 PM, Blogger The Dean of Cincinnati said...

To our knowledge, he is not on "record" at his current school in terms of race. We do not remember being asked or filling it out on a form.

He is not at a CPS magnet school. However, when we tried the second year at a magnet school, I believe we went for "African American," since "Not African American" hadn't worked for us the previous year. Perhaps if we had entered that system we'd be locked into whatever decision had been made.

At June 2, 2008 at 7:02 AM, Blogger Crankshaft said...

In Malaysia, the kids merely take on the father's race.

It only gets dodgy when one possesses an inheritable Chinese surname but one's descendants keep marrying Indian women.

It tends to race a few eyebrows.

At June 2, 2008 at 7:57 AM, Blogger Crankshaft said...

By the way, going out with someone of a different race is taken more seriously in other parts of the world.

When Love Costs Two Lives

At June 3, 2008 at 7:18 AM, Blogger Axinar said...

We do still occasionally have "issues" here.

Fortunately most such stuff has calmed down.

But as recently at the 1960's it was actually ILLEGAL in a number of states to marry someone of a different race.

Now, as the Dean has pointed out to me, it's getting quite difficult to find ANYTHING "official" around here with a race designation. It's pretty much a cultural thing at this point.

Of course the demographers and marketers are still figuring it out somehow ...


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