November Newsletter from Mixed Media Watch

Jen Chau <>

Mon 11/15/2004 9:02 AM

Welcome to Mixed Media Watch’s November Newsletter!

We want to send a big thank you to all of you who joined us in our
latest letter-writing campaign to the Larry Elder Show regarding their 2-dimensional/sensationalistic segment on interracial couples.

We are happy to say that our feedback has been heard. We have been in communication with a producer of the show who is interested in getting a better understanding and a more well-rounded picture of the issues and concerns of interracial relationships and mixed families. We ARE making a difference! Every voice is important and there is power in numbers, so
please continue to contribute by participating in our future action

Enjoy this month’s newsletter and please help us spread the word about Mixed Media Watch by forwarding this email to a friend and encouraging them to check out the site.

Take care,

Jen and Carmen

tracking representations of mixed people in the media

1) The Lowdown on Yesterday’s “The Larry Elder Show”

1) MMW’s Letter to “The Larry Elder Show”

1) Tiger Gets Hitched!
2) A New Biography Captures Alice Walker’s Life
3) Race Is a Social Construct: $4M Campaign To Educate Public
4) Prince Gets Political With Cinnamon Girl
5) “CSI” Features Mixed Family In Need Of Bone Marrow
6) Yet Another Horrific Interracial Dating Guide
7) Census Bureau May Eliminate “Some Other Race” Category
8) Emmett Till Case To Be Re-Opened
9) Other Countries Adopting African-American Babies
10) Biopic Film Debut “Just Fits Perfectly” For Alicia Keys


CVK, October 19, 2004
Yesterday’s episode of daytime talk show “The Larry Elder Show” on interracial couples was just as awful as I expected.

To recap: there were 3 couples featured on the show. The first is a
white man married to a Latina woman. Forest is racist against Latinos, calls Glenda racial slurs in front of their child, and has cheated on her 7 times. The second couple is a black man married to a white woman. William accuses Nicole of being racist towards blacks and not understanding black culture. Nicole has moved out with the kids because William has been physically and psychologically abusive towards her, and he also has a drug and alcohol addiction. The third couple is a black woman married to a white man. David and Jacki have 10 children together and are the “positive” example on this show.

At one point in the Forest/Glenda segment, Larry Elder announces to the audience that Forest is not only racist against Latinos, but against black people too. (Of course, the audience gasps with delight, impatient for Larry to open a can of verbal whoop-ass on Forest.) When confronted with this, Forest denies it, saying that he has black friends and served with many black people in the military. Then, in a rather stunning revelation, he announces that it’s actually Glenda who frequently uses the “n-word.” Yes, Glenda, the long-suffering Latina wife who has been victimized by Forest’s racial slurs is herself a racist!

My interest was piqued by this turn of events. Could we actually be
delving into murky waters of moral ambiguity and hypocrisy? Into the complexities of I-may-not-be-white-but-I’m-lighter-skinned-than-you-thus-superior racism? Um, no. Of course Larry squashed that line of conversation real fast by turning it back to Forest’s racism. Can’t deviate from the pre-established Victimized Latina Wife vs. Evil Racist White Husband storyline!

William/Nicole was the “it’s all in your head” segment. Basically, Larry Elder tried to demonstrate that all the problems in their relationship were not caused by race, as William seemed to think, but by William’s own anger and addiction problems. Interestingly though, at one point William began to express concern over the way Nicole has been raising their children since she left him, explaining that while they used to wear their hair curly, she has taken to straightening their hair. “I feel like she’s trying to take their identity from them,” he says. “They’re mixed children!” Instead of exploring this valid and interesting issue, Larry Elder shuts William down and says that he has to focus on overcoming his personal problems first, and that all these other things–including the matter of how their children should self-identify ethnically–are “minor” and should be worked out between William and Nicole. Riiiiight…the kids can just put their identities on hold while mommy and daddy work through their own issues.


October 20, 2004

This letter was sent to the Larry Elder himself, the producers of his
show, and various executives at CBS.

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing to you about the episode of The Larry Elder Show which aired on Monday, October 18, 2004: “When Race Becomes a Dividing Issue in a Relationship.”

Our names are Jen Chau and Carmen Van Kerckhove. Together, we started Mixed Media Watch, a collaborative weblog and grassroots coalition that works to promote more realistic, three-dimensional portrayals of mixed race people, couples, families and transracial adoptees in film, television, radio and print media. For more information, you can visit us at

We were very disappointed by the way your show tackled the topic of interracial relationships. We understand that television is a business and that you are aiming for the highest-possible ratings. We also understand that the daytime talk show format has certain limitations. But even with those considerations in mind, there was no need for the show to be quite so simplistic and sensationalistic.

We are writing to ask that you do a follow-up show that will present interracial families in a more complex, plausible manner. Here are some suggestions for how you can develop a show that will better reflect the realities of mixed families:

* Move away from the tragic/blissful paradigm
* Look beyond just black and white
* Talk about resources and the growing mixed community


The decision to call the show “When Race Becomes A Dividing Issue in A Relationship” was a conscious one. Obviously, your staff made an effort to put a negative spin on the topic, and selected two tortured couples to bolster that view. But in order to avoid being accused of bias against interracial couplings, you decided that you’d end the show on a happy note by doing a quick interview with the blissful Schwantner

In your follow-up show, we hope that you will move away from this
limited way of looking at mixed families. The reality is that mixed
families are neither doomed to eternal suffering nor destined for a
lifetime of bliss. They have issues just like any other families and
yes, sometimes those issues are related to race. But rarely are they as dramatic as those that make their way onto the daytime talk show circuit. Move away from sensationalistic stories that include partners who direct racial slurs at one other, parents who disown their children for marrying outside the race, biracial people who pass for white, and so on. Instead, ask mixed families how they talk about racism with their children, how they deal with the issue of ethnic identity, how they interact with their extended families and communities, etc.

At one point on Monday’s episode, William began to express concern over the way Nicole has been raising their children since she left him, explaining that while they used to wear their hair curly, she has taken to straightening their hair. “I feel like she’s trying to take their identity from them,” he says. “They’re mixed children!” It’s sad that Larry Elder completely shut down this thread of the conversation. Clearly there is some conflict between the parents about the way their children should self-identify ethnically. It would have been far more interesting if Larry had explored this issue a little more.


In talking about interracial relationships, people in this country often focus only on couples in which one partner is black, and the other is white. Daytime talk shows are particularly fond of focusing on black/white couples because television producers think that the contrast in skin tone makes it more “shocking” and “taboo.”

It was good to see that you included a Latino/Caucasian couple on Monday’s episode, but we hope that in your follow-up show you will go even further in reflecting the far more diverse reality of the mixed race community. While only 6% of African-American husbands and 2% of African-American wives are in interracial marriages, the intermarriage rate among other groups is much, much higher. In the case of Japanese-American women, for example, 49% are married to non-Japanese-American men. And interracial marriages don’t happen only between white and non-white people–there are many couples in which both partners are people of color (e.g., Black/Asian, Latino/Black). In short, being in an interracial relationship is not just a black/white thing.


There’s a tendency for daytime talk shows to treat mixed families or mixed individuals as curiosities, as exotic and rare occurrences. This perception couldn’t be further from the truth. The mixed community is one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population, and resources serving mixed people have been developing just as rapidly.

In 2000, for the very first time, the Census gave people the opportunity to choose more than one race to describe themselves. Not only did the 2000 Census show that at least 6.8 million Americans self-identify as being of mixed descent, it also revealed that the United States was experiencing a multiracial baby boom–nearly half of those who were identified as two or more races were under the age of 18. This finding has led demographers to estimate that by 2050, 21% of Americans will be of mixed heritage.

The last five to ten years have seen an unprecedented level of community-building among people of mixed race. At least 40 colleges and universities have campus organizations for mixed students. Hundreds of members from these groups come together every year for the annual Pan Collegiate Conference on the Mixed-Race Experience. At least sixteen universities across the country–from Yale University to UC Santa Barbara–offer classes in critical mixed race studies, a new division within ethnic studies. This surge in interest has manifested itself online as well, where a multitude of online magazines and communities have sprung up that explore all aspects of the mixed race experience. There are many non-profit organizations around the country, several of them national, that provide community and support for mixed individuals, couples and families.

We hope that in your follow-up show you will demonstrate that mixed families do not exist in a vacuum by sharing with your audience the many resources available to interracial families.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to us. We sincerely hope that you will consider our ideas, and that we will hear from you soon.


Jen Chau and Carmen Van Kerckhove


CVK, October 06, 2004
The New York Post reports that Tiger Woods married his girlfriend, Elin Nordegren yesterday in Barbados: “Some 120 friends and relatives from around the world flew in for the lavish ceremony and mingled with many of Woods’ fellow golfers, celebrity pals and sportsmen including retired NBA superstars Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, who arrived in a silver Mercedes.”

JC, October 7, 2004
The Washington Post reviews Evelyn C. White’s new release, Alice Walker: A Life. “White’s attentiveness to personal stories as well as their historical context is the greatest achievement of this important work. She presents the life of Walker — the precious, precocious and cherished eighth child of sharecroppers — from her birth and childhood in the Jim Crow South to her politicization and involvement in the civil rights movement, her years at Spelman and Sarah Lawrence colleges, her interracial marriage, and her celebrity as a world-famous writer.”

3) RACE IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT: $4M CAMPAIGN TO EDUCATE PUBLIC CVK, October 12, 2004 The Baltimore Sun reports: “The American Anthropological Association has begun a project to re-educate the public and change how people think about race. Called “Understanding Race and Human Variation,” it is funded by nearly $4 million from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation. It will debut in the fall of 2006 and run five years. Plans call for a 5,000-square-foot traveling science museum exhibit, a Web site, a film, community gatherings tied to local issues, and teaching materials for kindergarten through 12th grade.”

JC, October 15, 2004
ABC News Online reports that Prince’s video (to be released next month) for song, Cinnamon Girl (off album Musicology), is proving to be a little controversial. The star of the video is Keisha Castle-Hughes, the Oscar-nominated New Zealand actress who made her debut in Whale Rider. The artist’s politically-charged new video Cinnamon Girl shows the Whale Rider star as a mixed-race schoolgirl facing taunts from classmates over her ethnicity after a terrorist attack. Later on in the four-minute music video, which features the teenage actress against drawn backdrops, her character appears to push a button to blow herself up in a crowded airport terminal.

CVK, October 18, 2004
Last Thursday’s episode of “CSI” centered on the disappearance of
12-year-old Alicia Perez. As the investigation ensues, the CSI team
finds out that Alicia’s older brother suffers from a rare form of
leukemia, and cannot find a bone marrow donor because he is mixed (Latino and white). Alicia was conceived specifically in hopes that her bone marrow would match. Unluckily for her, it did, and ever since her birth she has been a living DNA factory for her brother: the parents made her donate blood to her brother many times, and Alicia also donated bone marrow not just once, but twice. When her brother’s kidneys begin to fail, the parents want Alicia to donate one of her own but Alicia is unwilling, as it would mean that she would never be able to play sports and lead an active life. The parents are adamant about Alicia going through with the surgery though, and control her rebellion in the meantime by putting her on antidepressants. In the end, Alicia’s brother is overcome with guilt about robbing his sister of her chance at leading a normal life, and kills Alicia in what he thinks of as an act of mercy.

CVK, October 21, 2004
First came “How to Meet and Attract Asian Women.” Then came “How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men.” Now we have a new book, titled simply “Dating Asians.” Who is buying this junk? I just don’t get it! Even the book description is hilarious: “”Dating Asians” is the bible for dating Asians successfully. Asians are very different from Occidentals! And there are different types of Asians based on where they were born and raised. Each Asian group will have their own cultural traits and perspective on life. However, after reading this book, you
will find that most Asians can actually be quite predictable.”

CVK, October 25, 2004
The New York Times reports that the Census Bureau is considering eliminating the “Some Other Race” category in the 2010 census. Why is this significant? Because it would force Latinos–the largest minority group in the country–to define themselves by one of the standard “racial” categories: white, black, Asian, American Indian or Alaska native, or a category that includes natives of Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. What the Census Bureau doesn’t seem to realize is, by forcing Latinos–who are almost all of mixed descent–to select an artificial “racial” designation, they would actually be creating more inaccuracies. Without the “Some Other Race” option, it’s likely that many Latinos would refuse to answer the question, forcing census officials to guess at their “racial” identity, thus leading to even more inaccuracies in data files used to monitor voting rights and civil
rights enforcement. This is a major worry for those concerned about redistricting and civil rights issues.  The proposal to eliminate the category has already stirred a furious debate among Latino advocacy groups, statisticians and officials.

CVK, October 27, 2004
Sunday’s 60 Minutes reported that this past spring, the U.S. Justice Department opened a new investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, based on evidence suggesting that more than a dozen people may have been involved in the murder of Till, and that at least five of them are still alive. Those five could face criminal prosecution: “Till was a 14-year-old black youngster who was murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His death was a spark that ignited the civil rights movement in America. Two white men were put on trial for killing him, but in spite of strong evidence against them, an all-white jury acquitted them in about an hour. This ignited protests, civil disobedience and a backlash that would consume the South through the ’60s.”

CVK, October 27, 2004
The Christian Science Monitor has an article about the fact that
African-American babies are going to parents overseas even as US couples adopt children from other countries: “At the same time the US is “importing” increasing numbers of adoptive children from Russia, China, and Guatemala, it is “exporting” black babies to be adopted in other countries. The children who are in the greatest demand are also in the shortest supply. Those who want to adopt healthy white babies in the US may wait as long as five years, agencies say. In contrast, they add, the waiting for African-Americans is often measured in weeks and months,
especially for baby boys. The demand for biracial (black/white) babies falls in between, and the wait reflects this. The waiting period for a biracial girl can be more than a year. It’s also the case that adopting a white baby costs more than adopting a black or biracial one.”

27, 2004 England’s Daily Telegraph interviews Alicia Keys. Next spring she starts filming the lead in a biopic of Philippa Schuyler, a
mixed-race pianist in New York in the 1940s and 1950s who ended her days as a journalist, dying in a helicopter crash in Vietnam in 1967: “The film is to be co-produced by Halle Berry, who told Keys she felt it was the singer’s ‘destiny’ to play the part. ‘For my first role I wanted to play someone who is completely away from what people know me for,’ Keys says. ‘I just felt that was much more impactful. [But this story] just fits perfectly. It’s a story about your internal struggles as a person trying to find where you belong in a world where you don’t belong anywhere. I just found it so poignant, how similar it is. Philippa and her mother were very close but very at odds all the time; her mother always wanted her to pass as white so she could perform in these beautiful Carnegie Hall-type places.'”


MMW is a collaborative weblog and grassroots coalition that works to promote more realistic, three-dimensional portrayals of mixed people, couples, families and transracial adoptees in film, television, radio and print media.

Around the 15th of each month, Carmen and Jen will fill you in on the previous month’s opinion pieces, action items, and top 10 news stories that made it onto our MMW radar. This is our way of keeping you updated on the stories relevant to our growing mixed community!

You can get involved with MMW through any or all of the following ways:

1) Read MMW every day at! We update the site constantly as we hear about relevant news items.

2) Become a guest contributor to MMW! See a story of interest that we haven’t covered? Write it up as a post, using our MMW format, and email it to us at If we think it’s newsworthy and relevant, we’ll post it and attribute it to you. The more “watchers” out there, the better!

3) Help us write letters! Every once in awhile we see something that demands our attention and we create a letter-writing campaign. We’ll alert you via email of these action items and we hope that you’ll speak out too. Your voice will help to make a difference.

4) Forward this email to a friend! Help us spread the word about Mixed Media Watch by encouraging them to check out the site.


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