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Media Representations of Mixed Persons
February 9, 2006 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Mixed Media Watch is devoted to "tracking media representations of mixed people." Whether you identify as "mixed", "biracial", "mulitiracial", etc., this website is a great resource for a growing, but vastly underrepresented segment of the population. Of course, it is also a valuable resource for interracial couples, parents, and anyone else (like myself) who is endlessly fascinated with the social construct that we call race.
posted by crapulent (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Am I the only person who's been watching African American Liveseverybody on PBS? The miniseries traces the geneology of several prominent African Americans. And ends up demonstrating that everybody is mixed, highlighting that race is an increasingly absurd social construct.
posted by 1-2punch at 6:40 AM on February 9, 2006


Eh.

The DNA tests are accurate but fundamentally uninteresting. The tests look at only Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA, precisely because that DNA (unlike autosomal DNA) doesn't -- ironically enough -- mix.

You can have mitochondrial DNA or Y DNA that is African even if all of your autosomal DNA is derived from non-Africans. Someone with African mitochondrial DNA may nor may not be most closely related to Africans -- and probably the best determinant of relatedness, in the absence of a full DNA scan and enough scanned DNA to match it against, is to go by what race the person appears to be.

Race in not merely a social construct. Actual genetic heritage is considerably more complex than socially constructed ideas of race, but on average members of a particular "race" do share certain genes more frequently than persons outside that race. and that does have medical implications: African descended people, for instance, metabolize some drugs considerably more slowly than European descended people. So it's very useful for doctors to know a patient's race, because on average, race is correlated to (some) genes is correlated to patients' reaction to certain therapies.

Ideally, yes, you'd want to know every gene the patient has. In our less than ideal world, knowing the patient's race can be a useful stand-in in the obscene of more detailed genetic knowledge.
posted by orthogonality at 7:01 AM on February 9, 2006


Wonderful find, crapulent, thanks. It's great to see a smart blog with a sense of humor about media representation issues ("mixies"? I love it), and there's a year's worth of interesting posts there. Thanks again.

ortho, "race" is indeed a social construct. It certainly isn't a biological construct, dear. We've had this discussion endlessly on mefi, so I'll leave it today with this: What is so special about homo sapiens that requires the use of the concept "race," which is not used for any other animal species?
posted by mediareport at 7:34 AM on February 9, 2006


A large part of the South-East Asian arts & entertainment industry (at least the Malaysian one) is made up of mixed-race people. English + Punjabi, Bruneian + English, Thai + American, Burmese Chinese + Indonesian Chinese, English + Chinese, German + Chinese, Malay+ Chinese, Chinese + Indian, Malay + Chinese + Indian + Australian + who knows what else...

It's like you can't be famous in these parts unless you have more than one country's worth of heritage.

I wonder if it's the same elsewhere?
posted by divabat at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2006


Because "breed" isn't PC? I think ortho's points are valid, since he's talking about averages and incomplete data. Race isn't everything, but it's not nothing, either.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:41 AM on February 9, 2006


Wow, that archive is fascinating. And, ortho, they agree totally with your take on the "DNA test snake oil."

MrMoonPie, "breed" as it's used in animals =/= "race" as it's used in humans. I'm not denying that collections of genes vary, and that talking about those variations isn't medically useful. I am talking about the misleading and unncessesarily rigid use of the word "race," and suggesting we can do just fine without that social construct.
posted by mediareport at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2006


Mixed Asian or Pacific Islander is sometimes refered to as 'hapa' (= 'half') - check out http://www.thehapaproject.com/.
posted by carter at 8:34 AM on February 9, 2006


Great find, crapulet. And of course, we've discussed race as a social construct before. Here's a great statement on the issue from the American Anthropological Association. More here.

Oh, and I too have been watching that PBS special - fascinating.
posted by youarenothere at 8:35 AM on February 9, 2006


mediareport writes "ortho, 'race' is indeed a social construct. It certainly isn't a biological construct, dear."

I wrote race is not merely a social construct. I went to explain it can be and sometimes is used as "shorthand", essentially, for genetic differences.

Thanks for noting in a later post a link that backs up my other contention, and please do me a favor and don't use the condescending address of "dear" -- condescension poisons the discourse.

mediareport continues: "What is so special about homo sapiens that requires the use of the concept 'race,' which is not used for any other animal species?"

"race of animals" gets about 19,00 hits on Google. Admittedly, "breed", "subspecies", "stock", "strain" and "variety" are more often used for animals and plants, than is "race", but the meaning is similar, as MrMoonPie pointed out.
posted by orthogonality at 8:55 AM on February 9, 2006


Well there goes my plan for my first post to be about the N word controversy at the louisville school. That's what I get for waiting so long.

Great find. As someone in not only an interracial, but interracial same-sex relationship, it was good to read what other people notice about media representations.

It's heterocentric, but that's unsurprising. If hetero-interracial is controversial or uncommon, gay interracial is probably doubly so.

To be honest, I think socio-economic background is a bigger barrier to mixed relationships than race. It's far easier for me to date someone of a different race and of a similar class and education level than someone my own race who is not.

I don't mean that in a classist or elitist way, but more as the result of my relationships forming over a long period of time with people who are usually academic or professional peers.
posted by eisbaer at 9:31 AM on February 9, 2006


Mixed Asian or Pacific Islander is sometimes refered to as 'hapa' (= 'half') - check out http://www.thehapaproject.com/.
Another term is eurasian. Although admittedly used more in [sic?]Asia then North America.
posted by eurasian at 10:02 AM on February 9, 2006


It's heterocentric, but that's unsurprising. If hetero-interracial is controversial or uncommon, gay interracial is probably doubly so.

Eisaber, while gay interracial might be controversial it certainly isn't uncommon. I can't find the exact stats, but if I remember correctly, gays are involved in more interracial relationships per capita than any other group. (at least in the US).
posted by matkline at 10:24 AM on February 9, 2006


ortho, "race" is indeed a social construct. It certainly isn't a biological construct, dear.

This concept has always struck me as ludicrous. If the difference between a mongoloid, negroid and caucasoid isn't biological, than what could possibly be the explanation? Focusing only on the superficial, explaining this difference by "social construct" is surely absurd . . . It seems much like soviet science, soviet genetics for instance -- please conform to The Dialectic, please. Or in this case, crit-theory/post-colonial hand wringing, deconstructionism, etc.
posted by undule at 12:10 PM on February 9, 2006


If the difference between a mongoloid, negroid and caucasoid isn't biological, than what could possibly be the explanation?

19th century eugenics. the idea of race is recent. you can have more in common genetically with someone you deem of a separate "race" than someone you consider of that race. the dna test is a cannard. it assumes racial difference. there is no race gene. there are no groups of race genes. the closest you can come is to point out that many people from a common geographic location are related in recent time. that's like saying minnesotans are a race. unscientific anthropologists observed things such as skin color and geographic origin and pronounced a biological trait called race. it's a thoroughly discredited idea.

race is literally the social code by which people treat each other as "races." nothing more, nothing less. it can be coded to skin color or other things. any number of immigrant groups of various european extractions (irish, swedes, germans, polish) were considered "non-white" just a century ago in the u.s.. the poorest white person is protected by this code in ways the most accomplished and upstanding non-white person can only dream about. these codes have proved fluid over the years, with groups being socially inducted into "the white race" through willingness to perpetuate and uphold the code of whiteness. that is "how the irish became white."

but it is that very fluid nature of the idea of race which hold the most hope. if people can become white, they can certainly renounce whiteness. as Noel Ignatiev puts it:

"The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them.

The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in US society.

The existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. The defection of enough of its members to make it unreliable as a predictor of behavior will lead to its collapse."
posted by 3.2.3 at 1:47 PM on February 9, 2006


As one-half of an interracial couple, that site made me feel like someone got my relationship for a few minutes. Awesome.
posted by anjamu at 2:28 PM on February 9, 2006


Great link, thanks!

Race is just a social construct. (it's late here, but I can present more sources tomorrow if anyone needs more.)

It may seem obvious that there are races, if you look around you. It may also seem obvious that the earth is flat.
posted by questionmark at 6:28 PM on February 9, 2006


"race of animals" gets about 19,00 hits on Google.

Which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with its complete absence in serious scientific discourse about animal genetics.
posted by mediareport at 7:51 PM on February 9, 2006


There are a number of people who say that the term "hapa" (from Hawaiian, which got the word from English for 'half') was stolen from the Hawaiians by Californian hipsters that were looking a cool word.

(Did your head asplode yet?)
posted by bugmuncher at 9:45 PM on February 9, 2006


"Hapa" and "hapa haole" have been around for a lot longer than California hipsters. Sure it's been popularized recently, and maybe even entered common usage, but I've heard it used for decades to describe people like me.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 7:35 AM on February 10, 2006


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