Tag: Race

BMI, Race, and Bodies: How Race Science Reemerges in the Unlikeliest of Places

The connection between Black female bodies and ill health, fatness, and inferiority marks the historical record on race and health. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a prominent contemporary marker of this linkage. While there are strong arguments for and against the contention that there is a causal connection between BMI and ideal health, these… Read more →

Bottled Racism: A Review of Skimmed: Breastfeeding, Race, and Injustice by Andrea Freeman

In recent years, the black maternal and fetal health crisis has been front page news, and for good reason. Black women die from pregnancy complications at three times the rate of white women, and the black infant mortality rate is more than double that of all other ethnic groups. Due to racism in the medical… Read more →

Blinded by the White: Race and the Exceptionalizing of Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy just won’t quit. Or at least our cultural obsession with him won’t, long after he was executed in Florida by electric chair just over thirty years ago. Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, released in January, has reignited interest in Bundy once again and introduced him to a new generation… Read more →

Who Was the Original “Welfare Queen?”: Review of Josh Levin’s The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth

How do you tell a story about a real-life, embodied individual who inspired a stereotype, without reducing her life to fit into the same trope you are trying to upend? How do you uncover the exception that proved the rule without reifying the label you acknowledge is pernicious? I’m not sure, and Josh Levin sure… Read more →

If You See Something, Say Something: Imperial Origins of White Women’s Modern Racial Profiling

In 2018, confrontations between white women and people of color in the United States have become viral news bytes emblematic of widespread systemic racial profiling. Journalists, attorneys, civil rights activists, and armchair social media commentators point to the cases involving BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, and Golfcart Gail as examples of deep-seated beliefs in white female… Read more →

“Hateful, Un-American Ideas!” Gender, Race, and Politics in Cold War Romance Comic Books

In the October 1949 issue of the romance comic Hollywood Confessions, the protagonist of the story “Too Ugly to Love” describes himself as so ugly that he resembles a “menace from a horror picture.”1 Jon Koslo has “accepted … [his] ugliness philosophically!” when a film producer spots him and “exploits [his] ugliness” by giving him… Read more →

The Privilege of Despair

A preternatural calm settled over me on Saturday afternoon as I heard the news of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. I wasn’t reconciled to the outcome; my calm did not come from satisfaction. Instead, it came from the awful confirmation of a different kind — that the United States was still the white… Read more →

From Mooktie to Juan: The Eugenic Origins of the “Defective Immigrant”

On a Monday in November 1905, a “little deaf and dumb … 10-year old Eurasian girl” called Mooktie Wood arrived in the US on the steamship Canopic. An orphan with no known relatives, Mooktie had been “picked up” by an American Pentecostal missionary, Lillian Sprague, in the wake of one of the many devastating famines… Read more →

Women’s Liberation, Beauty Contests, and the 1920s: Swimsuit Edition

For several years, I’ve had a wall decoration in my office: a panoramic photo of a 1920s beauty contest. I was surprised to come across it at a discount home furnishings retailer and bought it on impulse. After all, how often does a cherished primary source present itself as a consumer good? From its inception,… Read more →

Are Our Genes Really Our Fate? DNA’s Visual Culture and the Construction of Genetic Truth

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andme has recently been described by journalist Erika Check Hayden as a “unicorn.”1 For Hayden, this Silicon Valley idiom describes the company’s one billion dollar valuation while also capturing the rare opportunity it affords to scientists: its two million customers make up the largest available pool of gene-linked health data.2… Read more →