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What To The Slave Is The 4th Of July?
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TAE Articles and Commentary - TAE Commentary and Articles
Written by Frederick Douglass   
Thursday, 03 July 2014

What To The Slave Is The 4th Of July?

Independence Day Speech at Rochester, New York

Given on July 5, 1852

by Frederick Douglass


Frederick DouglassFellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too Ñ great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory....

...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.ÑThe rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery Ñ the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, "It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed." But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Amercans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their mastcrs? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival....

...Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. -- Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. 'Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood." In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o'er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th' oppress'd shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom's reign,
To man his plundered rights again

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant's presence cower;
But to all manhood's stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I'll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive --
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate'er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 July 2014 )
Trayvon and George, A Year Later
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Written by Emily Monroy   
Thursday, 03 July 2014

Trayvon and George, A Year Later

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July/August 2014



Emily Monroy

It's been over a year now since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. In many ways, it appears we are no closer to a definite answer as to what really happened than we were at the time of the event. The ability to get a clearer picture is hampered by among other things the lack of reliable witnesses and, more importantly, the absence of one of the key parties, Trayvon Martin himself. Was Martin a victim of racism as well as overzealous vigilantism, a young Black male killed for being, well, a young Black male? Or was Zimmerman a victim of a violent counterattack by Martin and thus guilty of nothing other than self-defence?


Immediately after the fact, public opinion divided itself into two camps: those who would say 'yes' to the first question in the previous paragraph and those who would respond in the affirmative to the second. I myself take an agnostic approach to the Martin-Zimmerman affair. Until we have more and better information on what truly occurred that fateful night in Florida, everybody might do well to look before they leap to any particular conclusion. (Personally, I lean more to the 'Trayvon' side as opposed to that of a man who seems to want to be a real-life Eugene Tackleberry from the movie Police Academy.) Unfortunately, many partisans on both sides of the issue lack credibility. For example, PZ Myers of the left-wing blog Pharyngula, who in an entry titled 'Racist goddamned Florida' railed against the 'puffed-up coward Zimmerman,' had five years earlier sarcastically referred to three male Duke University students falsely accused of sexually assaulting a stripper as 'those nice boys at Duke' - long after it became evident that the rape charge was a hoax.


Where those on either side of the fence went wrong at first was to label the Martin-Zimmerman case a Black versus White issue. It was soon discovered that George Zimmerman might more appropriately be classified as Hispanic rather than White. While his father is White, of German descent (some people mistakenly thought George Zimmerman was Jewish, probably with the famous Robert Zimmerman - aka Bob Dylan - in mind), his mother is Peruvian. And, irony of ironies, Mrs. Zimmerman is believed to possess African ancestry: Peru has a history of slavery from colonial times and a sizable Black population today. Some say that far from being a 'White vigilante,' as one left-wing website called him, Zimmerman looks more like a 'cross between Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez'1 (personally, I see some resemblance between Zimmerman and Chavez but not much with Obama).


The difficulty with labelling the Zimmerman-Martin incident a Black-White affair lies precisely in the difficulty with labelling Hispanics at all in a racial sense. US government surveys state that Hispanics can be 'of any race.' In terms of actual ancestry, the majority of Hispanics in and outside the United States tend to be European plus something or some things else, the 'things' in question being African and/or Native American. On the other hand, some so-called Hispanics have no non-White ancestry whatsoever. For instance, my ex-fiancé was born in Lima, Peru, to a German father and Northern Italian mother. He had no problem, though, defining himself as a 'Spanish-speaking minority' when seeking work in the States. There are also Hispanics like my more recent boyfriend, who obviously has some non-European (in his case, Amerindian) forbears but who identifies as White.


The 'outing' of George Zimmerman as Hispanic challenges another widely held view: that different 'peoples of colour' will bond together or, in the White Supremacist paradigm, conspire against the White race. Here again, both Left and Right are guilty of promoting a false belief. One example: the White Supremacist website Stormfront talks in sinister tones about how 'the Jew, the Asian, the Black, and the Latino' have it in for the White man. This poster might be surprised by a recent poll from Great Britain showing that South Asians in that country were more likely to approve of a family member marrying a White than marrying a Black. This was true even among South Asian Christians (yes, they do exist), the category most accepting of interracial marriage. At the other end of the political spectrum, the Left also embraces the idea of people of colour engaging in some great interracial love-in. We saw this, for instance, in their support for 'Writing Thru Race,' a conference in Vancouver in 1994 which limited participation to non-White writers so as to 'ensure a milieu in which writers directly affected by racism [could] engage in candid and personal discussions.' But outside of the leftist - or for that matter rightist - fringe, it is far from clear whether different minority groups actually like each other any more than they like Whites.


We are still awaiting the final word on Trayvon Martin's death, if the final word indeed comes. What is obvious at this point, however, is that the event cannot be boiled down to a simple Black versus White or, in the eyes of Martin supporters, White versus Black issue. Going beyond what happened in Sanford, Florida, it is equally clear that race, whether in the United States or elsewhere, is literally not a matter of black and white.


1 Sailer, Steve. George Zimmerman, Wrecker.





Emily Monroy is a professional translator and is of Irish, Italian and Norwegian descent. Born in Windsor, Ontario, she now resides in Toronto. Her articles have appeared in several publications, including Interracial Voice, Cats Canada, and Urban Mozaik. She welcomes feedback on her articles. You can contact Emily here

Who's White?
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Written by Emily Monroy   
Monday, 31 March 2014

Mixed-Race Scandinavians

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April - May 2014


Emily MonroyThe George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case has put the subject of race front and centre in the American public mind. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was originally referred to in the media as 'White,' making the case seem like a White-on-Black issue. Then it came out that his mother was Peruvian, which led to Zimmerman being described as a 'Hispanic' or 'White Hispanic.' Now it has been revealed that Zimmerman may have African roots on his maternal grandmother's side. (Peru has a history of Black slavery from colonial times and a sizable African-descended population today.) One article on the right-wing website Coach Is Right asked sarcastically whether Zimmerman should be called an 'Afro-Peruvian White Hispanic.' Sarcasm aside, the Zimmerman-Martin drama raises a question that begs to be addressed: Who is White?


Even before the Zimmerman-Martin affair, who was regarded as 'White' or not varied across time and place. Politician J.D. Goss, a candidate in Alabama in the 1920s, thundered against 'the Jew, the Greek, and the Syrian,' insisting he wanted to be elected by 'the White man.' While Greeks have since been welcomed into the White fold, the status of Jews is still somewhat precarious. (Syrians, on the other hand, seem stuck in the separate category of 'Middle Eastern,' even if many of them are physically indistinguishable from Greeks or Southern Italians.) For example, when Dr. Henry Morgentaler first opened an abortion clinic in Toronto, the phrase 'The Jew kills White babies' was scribbled on the front of his building. For the most part, though, Jews are seen as White by people at all points of the political spectrum other than White Supremacists.


What has not changed, however, is the reality that at least in the Anglo-Saxon world, anyone with known African ancestry is not viewed as White. This is the case for my two nephews, whose mother - my sister - is White and whose father is Black. My nephews can at most aspire to the label 'biracial,' even though they have spent much more time with our side of the family than their father's and though most people in their immediate environment have been White. I must admit it bothers me that my nephews and I are not considered part of the same race, regardless of our family bonds. I remember a humorous incident when I was staying at a school dorm for a summer course and had a picture of my nephews on the dresser. A cleaning lady later told me that she looked at all my family photos on my bulletin board to try to figure out who 'Emilia's Black family' was: not mulatto family or biracial family, but Black family.


In contrast, individuals of White mixed with anything other than Black descent tend to be taken as White. Commenting on the Trayvon Martin incident, National Review columnist John Derbyshire, a White Briton married to a Chinese woman, writes a letter to his sons telling them that while they are of Northern European and Northeast Asian background, they will be seen as White. Cris Judd (the second Mr. Jennifer Lopez) was similarly described on an online forum as 'the only White guy that looks cool with a shaved head' - even if Judd's mother is Filipina (his father is Portuguese). Another site claimed that transsexual beauty contestant Jenna Talackova, who has an Aboriginal Canadian mother and Czechoslovakian father, received the public support she did to re-enter the Miss Universe Canada pageant (from which she had been temporarily barred on account of not being a 'natural born female') because she was an 'attractive White woman;' ironically, Talackova seems to be more easily accepted as White than as female. The 'one-drop rule' that still affects my nephews does not appear to apply to people like Judd or Talackova.


I have been romantically involved with two men whom British geneticist Steve Jones might term 'ambiguous Aryans,' in reference to a group of self-described 'White' Brazilians who nonetheless possessed significant amounts of non-European ancestry. The first, whom I'll call 'Boyfriend A,' was a Filipino with enough Spanish background to let him 'pass' as a Southern Italian in the eyes of a barber in Toronto's Little Italy. This despite the fact that my ex spoke a native Filipino language with his family, had spent his childhood and half his adulthood in the Philippines, and had never been to a Western country besides Canada. Yet he insisted he was 'White' and - unlike the White liberals frequently accused of being ashamed of their race - proud of it.


A few years later comes Boyfriend B, who is from Nicaragua. Like many other Latin Americans, he considers himself White and denies any Native American ancestry. His certainty about his allegedly pure European ancestry came into doubt, though, when our daughter was born. When I called him to say that I'd given birth to a girl, his first question was 'Is she White?,' and it wasn't because he thought I'd 'cheated' with someone of another race. Rather, he feared his daughter might have inherited Indian features from him.


His concern might not have been completely misplaced. Interestingly, despite living in the West all his life, speaking a European language (Spanish) as his mother tongue, and so on and so forth, physically he looked less 'White' than Boyfriend A. In other words, likely no one would have mistaken 'B' for an Italian. Yet for cultural reasons, I'm more comfortable in referring to him as 'White' than I am Boyfriend A. The Philippines, in my view, is not a Western country; Nicaragua is.


Final question: Is my daughter White? In her five years of life, she's generally travelled in White/mixed milieus. In her class, for instance, most of the other children are white - a large proportion of whom have blond hair and blue eyes - but there is a little Filipino boy and another child with a Jewish mother and Chinese father. I've always figured my daughter could 'pass' for Italian or Greek and would not necessarily stand out as non-European. However, at her end-of-the-year school party last June, the nanny of one of her classmates asked me whether my daughter was 'Latin American or something' (of note, the nanny herself had an interesting ethnic history, being born to a White British father and mixed Jamaican Black and Chinese mother and later marrying and having a son with a Black African man). So perhaps my little girl isn't quite as Caucasian-looking as I thought. Then again, I used my daughter's American Indian ancestry to my advantage when I went to the Native Canadian Friendship Centre in Toronto to look for a back pouch to carry her in. I remember telling the staff there that I wasn't Native but she was.


Post-script question: How will my daughter identify as she gets older? That's difficult to answer now. Just as in Toronto she'll have a choice of which religion she might wish to follow, or the choice not to follow any religion at all, she can 'choose' a racial identity that best suits her, whether that be White, Hispanic, or, more remotely, Native American. Or she can decide to be just plain old Canadian. But will she ever be considered completely 'White?' Only time will tell.




Emily Monroy is a professional translator and is of Irish, Italian and Norwegian descent. Born in Windsor, Ontario, she now resides in Toronto. Her articles have appeared in several publications, including Interracial Voice, Cats Canada, and Urban Mozaik. She welcomes feedback on her articles. You can contact Emily here

Last Updated ( Monday, 31 March 2014 )
Mixed-Race Scandinavians
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TMA Articles and Commentary - TMA Commentary and Essays
Written by Emily Monroy   
Monday, 31 March 2014

Mixed-Race Scandinavians

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April - May 2014

Emily MonroyOne day last December I was shopping at Toronto’s Kensington Market and saw a car with a sticker of the Danish flag on the back.  As I stopped to look more closely, a young mulatto girl came up to me and asked, “Can I help you?”


Curious to know what her connection to Denmark might be, I said, “I noticed you have a sticker of the Danish flag on the back of your car.”


“My mom’s Danish,” she replied.


“Oh, I’m of Norwegian descent.  Our flag is just like yours except that it has a blue cross.” (Denmark’s flag is red with a white cross, Norway’s red with a blue cross outlined in white.)


Just then an older White woman who had apparently been listening to the conversation walked over, smiled, and started talking to me in what must have been Danish (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are so similar they’re often called the dialects of the Scandinavian language).  I apologized and told her I didn’t speak Norwegian.


I wished a Merry Christmas to the mother and daughter, and we parted ways.  I felt somewhat ashamed of myself for automatically presuming that the girl was NOT Danish.  After all, thanks to some Italian and Irish ancestry I’m hardly the typical blond-haired blue-eyed Scandinavian.  But as I pondered the matter further, I realized there were a number of mixed-race Scandinavians in my midst.  A children’s group to which I once brought my daughter included a small and very pretty mulatto girl with a Swedish mother.  My best friend on a summer exchange program to Quebec was a young woman whose mother was from Sweden and father from Egypt (for the purpose of this essay, I’ll go by the Canadian government’s current classification of Arabs as non-White, even if some of them are physically indistinguishable from Greeks or Southern Italians).  My family is no stranger to interracial relationships either.  A cousin of mine married a Black American man and has two biracial sons.  My own daughter is part Native American on her Nicaraguan father’s side, though like most Latin Americans he has Spanish ancestry as well.


Scandinavia boasts several well-known individuals of mixed heritage in its ranks.  Among them are singer Nenah Cherry (Swedish mother, African father), Kersti Bowser (a Black-Swedish model who joked she went to tanning salons to “keep her Swedish side in check”); and Rikke Roenholt (Danish mother, Ghanaian father), a runner who will be representing Denmark in the 2008 Olympics.  Famous White Scandinavians who have been involved in interracial unions include Icelandic singer Bjork (had a relationship with a Black man named Goldie which caused an anti-miscegenation fan of hers to commit suicide on videotape), Swedish actress May Britt (wife of musician Sammy Davis Jr.), Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren (ex-lover of Grace Jones), and Denmark’s Prince Joachim (formerly married to a woman of Austrian and Chinese descent).


Any discussion on mixed-race Scandinavians would be incomplete without a mention of Greenland.  An overseas territory of Denmark, Greenland was colonized by that nation in the 1700s.  Most Greenlanders are of mixed Danish and Inuit descent.  Recent genetic studies have shown that as with Latin America, Greenland’s present population resulted from unions of European men with native women.  However, while colonization in Latin America led to an almost complete Westernization of that region (most Latin American mestizos, like my daughter’s father, speak Spanish as their first language and don’t identify at all as Indian), Greenlanders have kept much more of their original culture.  For example, Greenlandic, an Inuit language, is the mother tongue of most Greenlanders, though many know Danish too.  On the other hand, the bulk of Greenland’s population belongs to the Lutheran Church, as does Denmark’s.


At an individual level, the degree to which mixed-race Scandinavians retain their culture varies.  My above-mentioned friend in Quebec, for instance, spent long periods of time as a child in Sweden and spoke fluent Swedish.  In contrast, my grandmother, whose family came from Norway, married a non-Scandinavian man and didn’t teach Norwegian to my mother, so I am unfortunately unable to pass the language on to my daughter and any other children I may have in future.


One “marker” of Scandinavian heritage is Lutheranism, even if not all Scandinavians are Lutheran and many of those who are are not particularly religious.  Here again, families differ.  Though her father was Muslim, my Swedish-Egyptian friend was raised Lutheran.  However, a Finnish-Canadian colleague married to a Filipino woman was bringing up his children in his wife’s Catholic faith.  I myself have had my daughter baptized in the Lutheran Church.  While the principal reason for doing so is to share my personal faith with her, an added bonus is the “link” it provides to her Scandinavian ancestors.


On my kitchen wall is a picture of a girl in traditional Norwegian dress.  My mother remarked that she might make a similar costume so that my daughter could be a “little Norwegian girl” for Halloween.


“But she’s already a little Norwegian girl!” I protested.


“With those big brown eyes [courtesy of her father]?” my mom responded, and we both laughed.




Now I would like to include an interview with a real-life mixed-race Scandinavian – writer Heidi Durrow, author of the book Light-skinned-ed Girl.  Check out her website at – and read her answers to my questions.


Q: From what I understand, your mother is Danish and your father African-American.  How and where did your parents meet?


A: My parents (my mother is from Herning, Denmark and my father was originally from Texas) met on an American Air Force base in Germany.  My mom was working as a nanny to an American family – she wanted to practice her English while she earned some money to go back to school.


Q: Where were you born?


A: I was born in Seattle, WA at the Swedish Hospital .  Both my brothers (one older and one younger) were born in Herning.  I am jealous of this to this day – but tease them that they cannot ever be President of the US because they were born on foreign soil.  Silly, right?


Q: Do you speak Danish fluently?  If so, is it your first language (meaning the first language you learned as a child)?


A: Yes, I would say I’m fluent in Danish – though each time I’ve gone back as an adult I hear more of an accent developing –an unintelligible one at that—a strange mixture of American and ????  Also, my language is kind of dated and I sound like my mother from forty years ago – I haven’t updated my slang-and I haven’t updated my accent to go with the Copenhageners –but they are kind to me when I go and don’t make fun of me –heee hee.


Q: Have you spent long periods of time in Denmark?


A: As a child we spent long summers and holidays there. Recently, I received a grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation to do research for a book I’m writing. I spent a month in Copenhagen in a little apartment I rented. I spent time at the libraries and doing interviews and also with my family. It was an amazing experience to be part of Danish life for so long as an adult on my own terms.


Q: Would you say that when growing up your father’s or your mother’s background had the greatest influence in your home?


A: My mother’s background was the most important. We spoke only Danish with my mother until I was about 11 or 12. When my dad would come home from work, we would speak English around him but if he wasn’t in the room it was Danish again. We ate Danish food, celebrated holidays the Danish way – and I think were raised with a Danish sensibility – the bad part: Janteloven – but also something more intangible that I think people here would say is European but to me seems specifically Danish.


Q: Were you raised in the Church of Denmark (the Lutheran Church, that is)?


A:  I was christened Lutheran, but did not have a confirmation. It was a great wish to have one as a child, but by the time I was 14, we were in the US and it would be another several years before we could AFFORD for me to travel to Denmark again.


Q: How do you identify ethnically now?


A: My ethnic identification has gone through many changes. For the last long while, I have embraced saying that I am biracial and bicultural – African-American and Danish. I think this specificity annoys some people – some who think, get over it you’re black since you don’t look white and also those who think: but you’re American and that whole Danish thing is just quaint. I am tired of thinking what they are thinking and just say what is the truth now.


Q: Do you find that racism is widespread in Denmark? Have you ever encountered racism in that country?


A: I feel lucky not have experienced racism in Denmark. I was either too ignorant to recognize it or I have been shielded from it. That is not to say that I haven’t been privy to people making comments about me. Comments like “there are more and more of THOSE people coming” – an overhead remark when I had lunch with a cousin – I assume they thought I was Arab? Turkish? A foreigner who was now living in Denmark?  There is a lot of discrimination against them. It’s disturbing. My brothers have experienced racism, I think – but those are their own stories.  I think ignorance about racial difference is widespread in Denmark, unfortunately.  It’s a small land and for a long time they haven’t had contact with “others” - but I think it is changing. There are more and more mixed-race Danes who are in the media and I think that makes it all less strange.


Q: In the past few years the Danish government made news because it tightened its immigration laws, making it more difficult to obtain political asylum and bring foreign-born spouses to that country.  As a person of part non-European ancestry, what did you think of these new laws?


A: The new anti-immigrant laws are disturbing and not at all Danish – Danes have always been and I believe will again be free-spirited and forward-thinking in regards to race. That’s my belief.




Emily Monroy is a professional translator and is of Irish, Italian and Norwegian descent. Born in Windsor, Ontario, she now resides in Toronto. Her articles have appeared in several publications, including Interracial Voice, Cats Canada, and Urban Mozaik. She welcomes feedback on her articles. You can contact Emily here

Last Updated ( Monday, 31 March 2014 )
Peoria Pundit Revists Matt Hale's Influences
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TMA Articles and Commentary - TMA Editorials by James A. Landrith, Jr.
Written by James A. Landrith   
Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Billy Dennis, writing for Peoria Pundit, on "Matt Hale’s mom blames his father, while she enables him":

You remember Matt Hale, right? He’s the morally defective little piece of excrement who — from the safety of his daddy’s basement — became pontifex maximus of the World Church of the Creator, a church that literally worships white people. Whenever asked about his son’s behavior, his daddy said boys will be boys. Well, poor little Matt is now serving a sentence in a Super Max prison for trying to get a church supporter to kills a judge.

I opposed and denounced this worthless sack of (unintelligible foul mutterings not fit for print) publicly and often in the late 1990s as the publisher and editor of The Multiracial Activist. He was from Central Illinois, same as me, so I took his vile spewings personally as the father of multiracial children. 

I'm glad to see that he is still rotting in SuperMax. He and his ugly ilk serve no purpose in the 21st Century.

Rot away Matt. Rot away.  The world is a better place despite your continued consumption of precious oxygen.



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