Thursday, July 3, 2008

CNN's "Black In America"

So I'm looking through the July, 2008 Ebony magazine and I stumble across this ginormous full-page ad for a special running on CNN July 23rd and 24th at 9pm called "Black In America".

The first thing I'm thinking is, "Uh oh, The Dean isn't going to be happy about this." Because it sounds to me like CNN is saying that there at least is such a thing AS the state of BEING Black.

I also wonder what University of Maryland professor of anthropology and genetics researcher Fatimah Jackson, quoted by Cassandra Franklin-Barbajosa as saying "race as a scientific concept doesn't exist" would have to think of this CNN special.

Yes, I'd have to agree that race is not a scientific concept, but it is certainly a cultural concept.

And that concept can vary quite a bit from culture to culture.

I never will forget the first time I showed a picture of Mrs. Axinar to my one friend from Puerto Rico. My Puerto Rican friend said, "Mrs. Axinar isn't Black - she's Cuban."

Interestingly enough, the CNN special is hosted by Soledad O'Brien. I once asked my Puerto Rican friend to give me her best guess on an "ethic ID" of Soledad O'Brien and my Puerto Rican friend said, "I'm not 100% sure, but she's got ALOT of White in her." Turns out María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien has Irish, Australian, and Afro-Cuban background.

Interestingly enough, there was another article called "Cuba and color" running in the July 2008 Ebony about the fact that in Cuba, another place where African slaves and European slaveowners crashed into one another, the concept of racial identity took a quite different twist than in the United States.

For one thing, for a very long time in the U.S., there was this concept that "one drop" of "African blood" made you Black. I'm thinking this has changed somewhat in the early 21st century. It seems like there is a "transition zone" in the 30 - 40% African admixture range where one starts to have a greater liklihood of being identified as "Black" rather than "White". Henry Louis "Skip" Gates had a couple of guests on African American Lives who tested about 20% African, but were clearly identified with the "White" community. Barack Obama and Halle Berry at presumably right around 50% African associate with "Black", and then we have Karyn Parson's children, Lonette McKee and Mariah Carey who we find in a deep, deep state of ethnic ambiguity at first glance, although Lonette McKee identifies with the Black community and, if I understand it correctly, Mariah Carey voluntarily obstains from ethnic identification.

However, in Cuba, according to this Ebony article, it's quite different.

First, as my Puerto Rican friend alluded to, the primary ethnic identification for both what would appear "White" and "Black" to U.S. eyes is actually "Cuban". There's a much looser association with "White" and "Black", but, in Cuban culture, "one drop" of EUROPEAN BLOOD makes you WHITE.

Oh that's heavy.

That also explains some references I've seen in other articles that when some Afro-Cubanos come to the Unites States they can become staggeringly confused rather quickly as they had primarily thought of themselves as "Cuban" and secondarily as "White" because they are what we might call in this area "light skinned", when they come to the U.S. they're thought of as "Black".

In any event, it will certainly be interesting to read The Dean's reaction to the CNN special.

That and I find it quite disturbing that Time Warner has made no provision to allow a person to program a DVR manually out that far.

All y'all WILL remind me a few days before the thing to record it?

CNN's "Black In America" - The Revealed Oasis (BTW - this young lady is a HUGE John Coltrane fan - okay in my book :) )

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At July 3, 2008 at 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for covering this topic. I also read the Sunday Enquirer's insert with the article about the DNA testing. There was a story on 60 Minutes the other week (rerun) about this Oklahoma good ole boy & this shocked black woman who found out through testing she was related to this wrinkled old codger. It dispelled with that mythological African Royalty crap.

Many months ago, on another program, & it wasn't the standard network fare - scientific testing has solidly proved that 33-35% of America's black population has white genetic structure, which in their opinion, makes the African-American race selection a misidentification.

And Mr. Axinar, you're absolutely right - Cuban people consider themselves Cuban, as does the people from Puerto Rico & many other nations. They do not identify themselves in terms of a particular color.

Lastly, Dean's take on the entire situation should be the least of your worry. He's in this tiny bloc of people who hate being white & wish their lives away wanting to be black. On the other hand, perhaps these lessons in DNA evolution of humankind might be just the therapy he needs to come to realization that he cannot change his color or his genetic structure.

At July 27, 2008 at 2:32 AM, Blogger Dawn Shepherd said...

It's a dirty American secret as to the number of white men who enslaved or abandoned their black children during slavery.

The evidence is all around us, in the number of "light" skinned blacks who supposedly aren't of mixed race.

I don't say this to stur up guilt or anger but only to suggest that when people point the finger and blacks (or any group) with disgust, they are actually pointing to their own shadow self.
Americans need to do some serious shadow work.

At July 27, 2008 at 11:04 AM, Blogger Axinar said...

Whether someone is "White", "Black" or "Mixed" varies quite a bit from culture to culture.

Here if someone is roughly 1/2 European and 1/2 African they are usually called only "Black", i.e. Obama.

However, in Cuba, the same admixture would be considered "White".


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