Code Switch

Six Words: 'With Kids, I'm Dad. Alone, Thug'

Nov 17, 2014

NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, where thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.

Marc Quarles is African-American, with a German wife and two biracial children — a son, 15, and daughter, 13. The family lives in Pacific Grove, a predominantly white, affluent area on California's Monterey Peninsula.

Last month Marvel Studios announced the roster for some upcoming features. In addition to Ant-Man and a female-led Captain Marvel film, Marvel's Kevin Feige confirmed that on November 3, 2017, the studio planned to release one of its longest-rumored projects: The Black Panther.

We in the nerdier parts of the Internet promptly lost our minds.

Jewish girls become a bat mitzvah; 15 year-old Latinas celebrate with quinceañeras. But for generations of Indian-American girls, the rite of passage is performing a classical Indian dance before a crowd of hundreds. After years of preparation, Hema Ramaswamy of Middletown, N.J., is ready to unveil her arangetram.

Several of this year's recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the national government gives to civilians, are people of color. They include recording star Stevie Wonder and the late Alvin Ailey, legendary choreographer and founder of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

Still, many of the honorees made their presence felt on the political stage, challenging America's presumptions about people of color.

Filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood is tired of hearing about "black films." In fact: "It is one of my goals in life to obliterate the term 'black film,' " she tells NPR's David Greene.

Prince-Bythewood tells love stories. She created the films Love and Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, and most recently, Beyond the Lights.

"For me it's just about putting people of color in every genre and making it become normal," she says.

As America's longest-lived white supremacist organization, the Ku Klux Klan has achieved a rare kind of name recognition. You know the way people say "Xerox" when they mean "to photocopy" or "Kleenex" when they mean "tissue"? "KKK" functions something like that, except it shorthands to "racial terrorism and extrajudicial killings."

It's a dilemma that some Klan groups are trying to address by being less, well, Klan-ish.

Back in April, after a 73-year-old Klansman went on a deadly shooting spree in Kansas City, a whole lot of avowed racists condemned the shootings.

Photograph by Alex Wroblewski

The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has brought to national attention the obstacles that many young black males face - including racial profiling and a world where media portrayals of their peers are often less-than-flattering. Maureen McKinney took a look at the topic in Illinois. She joined Rachel Otwell for this interview: 

Most reviews of the CW's Jane The Virgin mention that it was loosely adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela called Juana La Virgen. Then they predictably misrepresent a telenovela as a Latin American soap opera.

The Republican Party made historic gains during this week's midterm elections. Among their victories were three wins by black Republicans, who seem to be building momentum for diversifying the GOP ranks.

Mia Love — who is Mormon and Haitian-American — is one of those three, and Republicans in Utah's 4th District will be sending her to Congress next year.

"Many of the naysayers out there said that Utah would never elect a black, Republican, LDS woman to Congress," Love told a crowd on Tuesday. "And guess what? Not only did we do it, we were the first to do it!"

A heads-up to our readers: We use some language in this post that some folks might find offensive.

Last week, the Toronto Star found itself in the midst of one of those blink-and-you-missed-it Internet kerfuffles over race.

Here's what happened. The Ontario Human Rights Commission had settled on a term to use in reference to people of color — "racialized people."

The commission wrote:

Six months ago, we brought you the story of the Edna Karr High School marching band in New Orleans. Two members of the band in particular, snare drummer Charles Williams and tuba player Nicholas Nooks, or Big Nick as his friends call him, earned scholarships to Jackson State University in Mississippi — their dream.

The marching band at Jackson State is known as the Sonic Boom of the South. Band camp began in August with 164 freshmen. But after weeks of late nights and early mornings, musical training and also push-ups, 24 had quit.

Every time you type on your cellphone's keyboard, you're punching in tiny bits of Unicode, a universal standard for creating text, numbers and emoji.

'La Chancla': Flip Flops As A Tool of Discipline

Nov 4, 2014

As business jargon goes, there are certainly duller expressions than "open the kimono."

Translation: To disclose information about the inner workings of a company.

There's a video that's been circulating online since Tuesday, and it frames itself like this: a woman walks around New York City for 10 hours, with a camera secretly recording as she gets street-called 100 times by men.

It's Halloween — a time for Frankenstein monsters and vampires and werewolves. But many of us have our own monsters from different cultures, and When we threw out a call to our readers asking what ghost stories and folktales they grew up with in their own traditions, we got back stories of creatures stalking the shadows of Latin American hallways and vengeful demons from South Asia with backwards feet. (And that's before we get to the were-hyenas and the infernal bathroom stalls.) Below are some of the best we've found or that were told to us from Code Switch readers.

Days before Election Day, Chris Deschene's campaign to become Navajo Nation president has officially gone into limbo.

Deschene, 43, made it onto the Nations ballot after receiving 19 percent of the vote — second to Dr. Joe Shirley Jr., a former Navajo president. But Navajo law requires that all presidential candidates speak the Navajo language fluently, and Deschene quickly came under fire when he was accused of not passing that test.

The other night, at a large outdoor Halloween-themed party, I saw a young white girl, probably about 3 or 4, dressed up in a long, purple kimono. I felt an involuntary uneasiness. I wanted to ask her parents who she was supposed to be — maybe it's a character in some cartoon I don't know about, I thought — but I didn't want to embarrass anyone. Which is to say, Problematic Dress-up Season is in full swing.

This story is a consolidated version of a three-part series by St. Louis Public Radio that profiles how issues of race and class sparked by Ferguson are being discussed in St. Louis-area schools.

It was early September and Vincent Flewellen had just wrapped up his day teaching at Ladue Middle School, in an affluent suburb about 13 miles south of where protests erupted in Ferguson.

We've heard some of the same comments a lot about this fall's television lineup, which includes the shows Black-ish, Cristela, Selfie and Fresh Off the Boat: "Why is diversity all the rage now?" asked Robert Rorke of the New York Post. And Esther Breger called this season the "most diverse in recent TV history."

Navajo Nation Changes Language Law

Oct 27, 2014

In the space of a few months, the quest for one candidate to become the next Navajo Nation president has become intertwined with the changing culture of Indian Country. It has turned into what could be described as a political thriller with a distinctly Navajo hue.

Today's Irish Dancers Step Away From Stereotype

Oct 27, 2014

When Riverdance debuted 20 years ago, Irish step dancers — whether citizens of Ireland or any other country — looked, well, stereotypically Irish. The red-haired, freckle-faced lass doing a jumpy jig still comes to mind for many. But the All Ireland Dancing Championships, currently underway in Dublin, will show how that image no longer reflects the reality.

The new show Gotham has been one of fall's most successful television debuts. But earlier this month, the show found itself in hot water when it hired a white stuntwoman as a body double for a black guest star.

"They took the white stuntwoman and put her through hair and makeup and they applied the black makeup on her, so that she could pass as the black guest star," says David Robb, a reporter at Deadline Hollywood. It's a practice known as "painting down."

A rare, untitled 1913 silent film is the subject of a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibit, 100 Years In Post-Production: Resurrecting A Lost Landmark of Black Film History, tells the story behind the silent film's production.

The film features Bert Williams, one of the era's famed black entertainers and the first black Broadway star. He performed in blackface on the stage, and does the same in this film, a romantic comedy with a large black cast of actors.

Cosmetics giant L'Oréal purchased Carol's Daughter, a beauty company that sells natural hair and skin products for black women, earlier this week. It may seem like an unlikely chapter in the story of a business that began in a Brooklyn kitchen.

Thousands of Chinese immigrants took to the seas in the 1980s and 1990s. Many stowed away on cargo ships, spending months on voyages to America organized by Chinese-American gangs in New York.

This election season is proving to be tough for Democrats, but many believe they can turn the red state of Georgia blue with the help of new voters.

One voter registration campaign led by the New Georgia Project, a "nonpartisan effort" according to its website, has targeted black, Latino and Asian-American residents.

Bethann Hardison was one of the "spiritual mothers of the supermodels who ruled the '90s," and she credited some of her rise to prominence to Oscar de la Renta, the influential Dominican-born fashion designer who died this week at the age of 82.

One night last fall, I was walking through Chinatown in Washington, D.C., with my friend Terryn. We were not far from a dude who was in his mid-20s — slim, with neat, shoulder-length locks, skinny chinos, loafers and a leather briefcase slung across his torso — standing on the corner, his arm raised skyward. He was trying without luck to hail a cab.

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