The many faces of race research

The technology to turn oneself into a mixed-race avatar might be confined to movies, but Brian Banton plays with racial manipulations of himself online, wrote the Toronto Star (online) Jan. 27 in a story that included five photos of him.

As a York graduate student, he explores questions of racial hybridity as related to corporate design. Much of the work is obscurely theoretical, Banton says. “But I also want to be playful. (Mixed race) is a serious issue but I don’t want to be heavy-handed.”

Banton was born in Brampton, the offspring of a Scottish-born mother and Jamaican-born father. When visiting his mother’s family, he feels black, he says. When he’s with his father’s family, he feels white. He calls himself “mixed” and “biracial” and “just myself,” but he also admits to a low-level underlying anxiety. People have guessed him to be Italian, Greek, Arab and South American, he says, never half-Scottish, half-Jamaican. “There is comfort in being explicitly part of a community,” Banton says. “I’m in this middle space, not fully committed to one side."

Banton’s girlfriend, whom he describes as half-Asian, half-white, recently came across a Web site called Face of the Future. Built by Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, it allows the user to upload a headshot and see what the face would look like as another race.

“(The software) clearly shows visual markers that identify us physically in the face,” Banton says. “I’ve always played on my own ambiguity and I thought this was just pushing it a bit further.”

In one photo, he comes out as a white person. In three others, he comes out in progressively darker shades. “I want to experiment,” he says. “It would be interesting to set up different accounts on dating sites and see if people are more attracted to an Asian version of me versus the black or white version.”

Professor’s report should worry Saskatchewan premier, says reader

Premier Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party caucus must feel uneasy reading such a headline as "Infant mortality highest in Sask." (StarPhoenix, Jan. 22), wrote reader Peggy Durant in a letter to The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon, Sask.) Jan. 27.

Professor Dennis Raphael of York University’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, cites a 2008 Statistics Canada report that Saskatchewan’s infant mortality rate is 8.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, the highest among all provinces.

To add to Wall’s shame is the fact that he agrees with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament until March. Surely the premier realizes that Parliament should be functioning at full capacity to deal with such issues as infant mortality, particularly in the North. The federal government is responsible for Indian and northern affairs.

More federal money and expertise should be in place to help prevent infant mortality and to deal with other issues.

Top picks for passive and active investors

In a Jan. 27 article on investing tips, The Globe and Mail wrote: Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, says: “When Professor Harry Markowitz [University of California] introduced the financial world to the mathematics of diversification, he…meant all forms of capital. Your job is an investment, your house is an investment and even your spouse is an investment. Make sure your RRSP takes those bigger investments into account.”

York student medals at junior weightlifting championship

North Bay lifter Stavrula Liritzis took home a bronze medal from the 2010 Canadian Junior Weightlifting Championship, Saturday, wrote the North Bay Nugget Jan. 27.

The event featured the top under-20 lifters from six provinces. In the 69-and-under kilogram class, Liritzis, in her first year of studies at York University, broke her personal-best in the snatch by hoisting 61 kilograms on her third and final attempt.

On air

  • Professor Emeritus Claude Tatilon, writer, linguist and founding director of the Research Group in Francophone Studies at York’s Glendon College, spoke about simplified spelling for 2000 French words, on TFO-TV’s “Panorama” Jan. 25.
  • Marcel Martel, holder of the Avie Bennett Historica Chair in Canadian History and a professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the history of universities in Ontario, on TFO-TV’s “Panorama” Jan. 25.