Thursday, August 9, 2018

Tanya Katerí Hernández

Tanya Katerí Hernández is the Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, where she co-directs the Center on Race, Law & Justice as its Head of Global and Comparative Law Programs and Initiatives.

Her new book is Multiracials and Civil Rights: Mixed-Race Stories of Discrimination.

Recently I asked Hernández about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have been re-reading Trevor Noah's memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, in anticipation of the film version that Lupita Nyongo is slated to star in portraying Noah’s mother. The book has a special resonance for me as a comparative-race law scholar whose personal background as a black-identified mixed-race Afro-Latina traveling the globe informs her insights about the (in)significance of the growth of racial mixture to the pursuit of racial equality whether it be in the US, South Africa, or Latin America. Noah’s story of being mixed-race during and after apartheid ended in South Africa is both a poignant and humorous read (as you would expect from the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

Yet what brings me back to rereading it, are all his insights about how discrimination operates separate from one’s personal racial identity. For instance, one of my favorite quotes from the book is -- "Because racism exists, and you have to pick a side. You can say that you don't pick sides, but eventually life will force you to pick a side." For Noah, being a light-skinned child of a black Xhosa mother and white Swiss father, did not shield him from racism. Astoundingly, Noah’s insight about South Africa directly relates to my own assessment of what we can learn from looking at contemporary multiracial discrimination stories in the United States. The narratives of mixed-race people bringing claims of racial discrimination in court, illuminate traditional understandings of civil rights law and the need for continued focus on white supremacy and anti-blackness in equality pursuits. As a fellow race, class and nations border-crosser, Born a Crime inspires me to keep speaking my own truth about the realities of racism, however uncomfortable that might be for others to hear.
Learn more about Multiracials and Civil Rights at the NYU Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Racial Subordination in Latin America.

The Page 99 Test: Multiracials and Civil Rights.

--Marshal Zeringue