FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America
by Mike Tauber and Pamela Singh
Introduction by Rebecca Walker ~ Foreword by Ann Curry ~ Essay by Alan H. Goodman, Ph.D.
Book Offers Personal Perspectives on the Rapidly Changing Face of America
Through a series of soulful photographs, personal vignettes, and poignant essays, Blended Nation (Publication Date August 1, 2009, Channel Photographics; $34.95; ISBN: 978-0-9773399-2-1), explores the experience of being mixed-race in twenty-first century America. As much a work of art as a piece of literature, this book profiles the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, encouraging both contributors and readers to consider the place, practice, and experience of race in modern society. With nearly seven million Americans identifying themselves as more than one race on the 2000 U.S. census, an anticipated increase of 33 percent more checking this box in the 2010 census, as well as the recent election of the first biracial President in United States history, Blended Nation offers a timely reflection on the shifting face of the nation.
The traditional notions of race are thoroughly and perniciously embedded in the cultural framework of the United States and have become a key element of both individual identity and government policy. Yet although race and ethnicity are perceived as fixed categories, research suggests that individuals' perceptions of their identities are fluid, changing according to specific contexts in which they find themselves. This trend is even more pronounced in the mixed-race population in the United States, where race, ethnicity, ancestry, and visual cues - in terms of skin color and hair texture - are so closely intertwined.
In her foreword to Blended Nation, Ann Curry suggests that people of mixed race are the ‘new face of America.’ Through portraits and interviews with mixed-race children, adults, and families, Mike Tauber and Pamela Singh literally invite their subjects to lend their faces and voices to a discussion of race in America. By allowing contributors to offer their own, and often differing perspectives, the authors create an immensely rich collection of thoughts, opinions, and unanswered questions such as: What happens to the identity of those individuals who are a quarter this, a half that, etc. who don’t visually correspond to any particular group when it comes to race, ethnicity and ancestry? Where do they fit? What box do they check? Most importantly, why is this even considered an issue? As Rudy Crew from Brooklyn, NY reflects in his interview -- I once asked my African American father, who has spent almost a lifetime working towards bettering education for economically disadvantaged public school children, and children of color, ‘do you ever get nervous or frustrated at what people might say/do when they realize you married a White woman?’ His response was succinct and lasting for me. He said, ‘Rudy, I don’t much care what people think about who I love. That’s my business and for people who have a problem with it, that’s their issue to work out.’
Among the many topics discussed in Blended Nation is a thoughtful investigation into ‘What is race anyway?’ How does one define race, particularly when it is constantly evolving? Contributors’ definitions of race differ wildly throughout the book, with some claiming that it is a fictitious concept – a human invention designed to ‘pigeon hole’ people into easily recognizable categories, and others arguing that race is a very real reflection of a person’s ethnicity. Ultimately, an essay by Dr. Alan Goodman suggests that rather than ask the question of whether or not race is real, people ought to ask, ‘In what ways do we make race a reality?’ Dr. Goodman also challenges readers to ask themselves, ’What does skin color have to do with race?’ If race does not have any scientific justification in human biology, then it is obvious that race is a primarily social construct that helps us categorize people.
Throughout Blended Nation, two types of people seem to emerge: those that feel marginalized by their mixed-race, and those that embrace their complex heritage, believing that it allows them to belong to more than just one cultural group. Ryan Schlachter discusses how, because of his mixed background, he feels like he does not fit in anywhere. Likewise, several contributors confess how they always felt ‘too black to be white and to white to be black.’ In one interview, Leighkaren Labay states that she grew up feeling like an ‘other in a world where it seemed like everyone else belonged.’ Yet other people, like Rehana Ellis, discuss the fun that they can have with their blended background. As Rehana explains, ‘When people meet me they don’t know what my ethnic background is and it almost becomes like a game. I have fun with it. People think I am Spanish, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern or Brazilian.’
Another issue repeatedly mentioned in the book, is the tendency of mixed-race people to identify more strongly with one side of their cultural heritage than the other. This raises a number of interesting questions regarding the reasons behind peoples’ desire or sub-conscious tendency to relate to one side more than another. Some contributors suggest that they are merely closer to one side of the family than the other, which leads them to identify more strongly with that heritage. Others claim that they make a concerted effort to identify more strongly with one culture than another, in an effort to fit in with their school mates, colleagues, and community. Others still, suggest that they never make the choice of which side to identify with: society makes it for them. For instance, Kelly Ogilvie states that because he looks Asian, people assume that he is. Thus, because of his looks and people’s assumptions, he identifies more strongly with his Asian side than with his less visible European heritage.
Blended Nation effectively raises an array of sensitive, political, social, controversial, and personal issues surrounding the mixed-race experience, providing a forum for its contributors to express their beliefs, and for readers to question their own.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Mike Tauber shoots portraiture, documentary and location/architectural imagery for editorial and commercial clients from his base in New York City. His career in photography was inspired by the study of anthropology and environmental science in college and in Tanzania, and was reinforced by his postgraduate travels throughout Africa, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific. Though largely self-taught, he honed his craft at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Mike, Pamela and their two young sons split their time between Fairfield, Connecticut and New York City.
Pamela Singh works for a large advisory/consulting firm in Manhattan as a sector specialist for the consumer products and retail industries. She has over 12 years experience in risk management, market research, and strategic consulting. She holds a Master's in International Finance & Economics from Columbia University and a BA in social psychology from Connecticut College.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS:
Ann Curry is the news anchor of NBC NEWS’ “Today,” and anchor of “Dateline NBC.”
Rebecca Walker is an award-winning author and humanitarian. Her first memoir, Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self was an international bestseller. She lives in Hawaii, the hapa capital of the world.
Alan Goodman is professor of biological anthropology at Hampshire college and a former president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). He helped write the AAA's Statement on Race and co-directs its public education program on race. www.understandingrace.com
Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America
Photographs and Interviews by Mike Tauber
Co-Produced by Pamela Singh
Publication Date: August 1, 2009; Price: $34.95; Channel Photographics; ISBN: 978-0-9773399-2-1