The Social Construction of Race: Some Observations on Illusion, Fabrication, and Choice

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-05-30 03:17Z by Steven

The Social Construction of Race: Some Observations on Illusion, Fabrication, and Choice

Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review
Volume 29 (1993)
62 pages

Ian F. Haney Lopez, John H. Boalt Professor of Law and Executive Committee Member for The Center for Social Justice
Berkeley Law School
University of California, Berkeley

Under the jurisprudence of slavery as it stood in 1806, one’s status followed the maternal line. A person born to a slave woman was a slave, and a person born to a free woman was free. In that year, three generations of enslaved women sued for freedom in Virginia on the ground that they descended from a free maternal ancestor. Yet, on the all-important issue of their descent, their faces and bodies provided the only evidence they or the owner who resisted their claims could bring before the court.

The appellees… asserted this right [to be free] as having been descended, in the maternal line, from a free Indian woman; but their genealogy was very imperfectly stated …. [T]he youngest… [had] the characteristic features, the complexion, the hair and eyes … the same with those of whites …. Hannah, [the mother] had long black hair, was of the right Indian copper colour, and was generally called an Indian by the neighbours…

Because grandmother, mother, and daughter could not prove they had a free maternal ancestor, nor could Hudgins show their descent from a female slave, the side charged with the burden of proof would lose.

Allocating that burden required the court to assign the plaintiffs a race. Under Virginia law, Blacks were presumably slaves and thus bore the burden of proving a free ancestor; Whites and Indians were presumably free and thus the burden of proving their descent fell on those alleging slave status. In order to determine whether the Wrights were Black and presumptively slaves or Indian and presumptively free, the court, in the person of Judge Tucker, devised a racial test:

Nature has stampt upon the African and his descendants two characteristic marks, besides the difference of complexion, which often remain visible long after the characteristic distinction of colour either disappears or becomes doubtful; a flat nose and woolly head of hair. The latter of these disappears the last of all; and so strong an ingredient in the African constitution is this latter character, that it predominates uniformly where the party is in equal degree descended from parents of different complexions, whether white or Indians…. So pointed is this distinction between the natives of Africa and the aborigines of America, that a man might as easily mistake the glossy, jetty clothing of an American bear for the wool of a black sheep, as the hair of an American Indian for that of an African, or the descendant of an African. Upon these distinctions as connected with our laws, the burden of proof depends.

The fate of the women rode upon the complexion of their face, the texture of their hair, and the width of their nose. Each of these characteristics served to mark their race, and their race in the end determined whether they were free or enslaved. The court decided for freedom:

[T]he witnesses concur in assigning to the hair of Hannah… the long, straight, black hair of the native aborigines of this country….

[Verdict] pronouncing the appellees absolutely free…

After unknown lives lost in slavery, Judge Tucker freed three generations of women because Hannah’s hair was long and straight.

I. Introduction: The Confounding Problem of Race

I begin this Article with Hudgins v. Wright in part to emphasize the power of race in our society.  Human fate still rides upon ancestry and appearance. The characteristics of our hair, complexion, and facial features still influence whether we are figuratively free or enslaved. Race dominates our personal lives. It manifests itself in our speech, dance, neighbors, and friends-“our very ways of talkdng, walking, eating and dreaming are ineluctably shaped by notions of race.” Race determines our economic prospects. The race-conscious market screens and selects us for manual jobs and professional careers, red-lines financing for real estate, green-lines our access to insurance, and even raises the price of that car we need to buy. Race permeates our politics. It alters electoral boundaries, shapes the disbursement of local, state, and federal funds, fuels the creation and collapse of political alliances, and twists the conduct of law enforcement. In short, race mediates every aspect of our lives.

I also begin with Hudgins v. Wright in order to emphasize the role of law in reifying racial identities. By embalming in the form of legal presumptions and evidentiary burdens the prejudices society attached to vestiges of African ancestry, Hudgins demonstrates that the law serves not only to reflect but to solidify social prejudice, making law a prime instrument in the construction and reinforcement of racial subordination. Judges and legislators, in their role as arbiters and violent creators of the social order, continue to concentrate and magnify the power of race in the field of law. Race suffuses all bodies of law, not only obvious ones like civil rights, immigration law, and federal Indian law, but also property law, contracts law, criminal law, federal courts, family law, and even “the purest of corporate law questions within the most unquestionably Anglo scholarly paradigm.” I assert that no body of law exists untainted by the powerful astringent of race in our society.

In largest part, however, I begin with Hudgins v. Wright because the case provides an empirical definition of race. Hudgins tells us one is Black if one has a single African antecedent, or if one has a “flat nose” or a “woolly head of hair.” I begin here because in the last two centuries our conception of race has not progressed much beyond the primitive view advanced by Judge Tucker.

Despite the pervasive influence of race in our lives and in U.S. law, a review of opinions and articles by judges and legal academics reveals a startling fact: few seem to know what race is and is not. Today most judges and scholars accept the common wisdom concerning race, without pausing to examine the fallacies and fictions on which ideas of race depend. In U.S. society, “a kind of ‘racial etiquette’ exists, a set of interpretive codes and racial meanings which operate in the interactions of daily life…. Race becomes ‘common sense’—a way of comprehending, explainiug and acting in the world.” This social etiquette of common ignorance is readily apparent in the legal discourse of race.

Rehnquist-Court Justices take this approach, speaking disingenuously of the peril posed by racial remediation to “a society where race is irrelevant: while nevertheless failing to offer an account of race that would bear the weight of their cynical assertions. Arguably, critical race theorists, those legal scholars whose work seems most closely bound together by their emphasis on the centrality of race, follow the same approach when they powerfully decry the permanence of racism and persuasively argue for race consciousness, yet do so without explicitly suggesting what race might be. Race may be America’s single most confounding problem, but the confounding problem of race is that few people seem to know what race is.

Adopting an interdisciplinary/dedisciplinizing approach, the first half of this essay critiques existing theories of race from venues into which legal scholars rarely venture, namely biology, sociology, and literature. The last half of this essay advances a new theory of race as a social complex of meanings we continually replicate in our daily lives. Part II of this Article considers and rejects the most widely accepted understanding of race, which I term “biological race.” By “biological race,” I mean the view of race espoused by Judge Tucker, and still popular today, that there exist natural, physical divisions among humans that are hereditary, reflected in morphology, and roughly but correctly captured by terms like Black, White, and Asian (or Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid). Under this view, one’s ancestors and epidermis ineluctably determine membership in a genetically defined racial group. The connection between human physiognomy and racial status is concrete; in Judge Tucker’s words, every individual’s race has been “stampt” by nature. Part II explains that despite the prevalent belief in biological races, overwhelming evidence proves that race is not biological. Biological races like Negroid and Caucasoid simply do not exist. Finally, Part II introduces the argument, newly popular among several scholars, that races are wholly illusory, whether as a biological or social concept. Under this thinking, if there is no natural link between faces and races, then no connection exists.

Under the rubric of “social race,” Part III criticizes the ethnicity, nationalist, and colonialist theories of race. All three theories repudiate the idea that race is a fixed essence and instead locate races within the cartography of other social constructions. These theories fall short of providing a comprehensive or sophisticated understanding of race because they each treat race as a facet of some larger social phenomenon whether that be ethnic identity, cultural struggle, or the dynamics of colonialist conquest and resistance. This section critiques these theories in order to elaborate on a theory of racial formation or, as I call it, racial fabrication. “Racial formation” refers to the process by which the social systems of meaning we know as race accrue to features and ancestry.

In this Article, I define a “race” as a vast group of people loosely bound together by historically contingent, socially significant elements of their morphology andlor ancestry. I argue that race must be understood as a sui generis social phenomenon in which contested systems of meaning serve as the connections between physical features, races, and personal characteristics. In other words, social meanings connect our faces to our souls. Race is neither an essence nor an illusion, but rather an ongoing, contradictory, self-reinforcing process subject to the macro forces of social and political struggle and the micro effects of daily decisions. As used in this Article, the referents of terms like Black, White, Asian, and Latino are social groups, not genetically distinct branches of humankind.

In Part IV, I expand upon the proffered definition of race by examining the deployment of race in our daily lives. Despite the role of history—that is, despite the actions and reactions of the preceding generations—race remains common sense today only to the extent we continue to invest our morphology with racial meaning. The divisions we commonly discuss as Black, White, and so forth are relatively recent inventions, dating back in their current incarnations no more than a couple of hundred years. These divisions remain subject to constant contestation and revision, with their continued existence dependent on our acquiescence and participation today and tomorrow. This section deconstructs the micromechanics of race, the way race shapes and is in turn shaped by individual lives. It does so in terms of chance, context, and choice, or roughly, appearance and ancestry, social setting, and personal action. I argue that to a limited but largely unrecognized extent we as individuals and communities choose our races.

Part V brings this Article full circle by examining the connection between race and personal identity. Racial groupings in our society have been built upon and in turn have built up the edifices of cultural groups, establishing a close, even inseverable, relationship between races and communities. As collections of individuals who share a common culture and a similar world-view, these communities provide the crucial bridge between race and identity. In contact across the medium of communities, race and identity overlap and influence each other; each is both product and producer of the other. This last section completes the racial fabrication thesis by arguing for a connection not only between our face and our race, but for a link, however tenuous and at times obliterated, between our race and our soul…

Read the entire article here.

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The Negotiation of Identities: Narratives of Mixed-Race Individuals in Canada

Posted in Canada, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-05-30 00:26Z by Steven

The Negotiation of Identities: Narratives of Mixed-Race Individuals in Canada

Ontario lnstitute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto
170 Pages

Mélanie Jane Knight
University of Toronto

A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology and Equity Studies in Education Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

This thesis examines how mixed-race individuals shape and negotiate their identities and where they situate themselves along the racial continuum. I share the stories of five individuals of African/Caribbean/Lebanese and French-Canadian descent. This study is distinct tn that it examines participants’ negotiation of two White racially dominant groups, the Anglophone majority and Francophone linguistic minority who themselves differ in social and economic status. It was found that participants’ self-identification as individuals of colour was not an indicator of their participation within subordinate groups. Participants chose to situate themselves at different locations on the racial continuum, either participating within Whiteness, Blackness or both. Negotiations within certain locations on the continuum was found to bring benefits, depend to some extent on phenotype, cause tension and contradiction, to be influenced by racism and racial consciousness and to be complicated by language and ethnicity.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Understanding the Mixed-Race Individual
Early Considerations of Mixed-Race Individuals
Earlier Studies: Psychological Models
Limitations of the Models
Ecological Models
Sociological Studies
Later Studies Looking at Sociological Issues
Negotiation of Identity
Negotiations of Race, Culture, Language and Identity
French-Canadians and Historical Contexts

Chapter Two: Researching the Performance of Mixed-Race Identity
Theorizing Racism
Understanding Everyday Racism
The Structure of Everyday Racism
Methodology-Research Design
Qualitative Research
Criteria for Inclusion
Methods of Collecting the Data
Ethical Concerns
Structure of Narratives
“Minorizing” the Majority Language
Structure of Results and Discussion
Research Questions

Chapter Three: My Story/Ma journée

Chapter Four: Participating Within and Negotiating Whiteness
Lyanne’s Story
Karen’s Story
Ann’s Story

Chapter Five: Hybridity and Performing “Blackness”
Martin’s Story
Chantal’s Story


…I argue that mixed-race individuals’ self-identification as persons of colour may not coincide with where they participate along the racial continuum. Since non-White individuals have little option as to how to self-identify, they often self-identify as people of colour. This choice, however, may be hollow. For example, choosing to self-identify as Black may not have a great deaf of content to it since individuals may have never lived in Black communities or learned much of Black cultural life. There is then a gap between the self-identification as Black for instance and reality, that being the participation in White spaces. The reality maybe in a sense where mixed-race individuals feel comfort. These spaces of comfort may require them to perform an identity.  I contend that the performance of an identity is accomplished through language and examined in how individuals articulate and express themselves.  I also contend that a performance can be undertaken to prove one’s allegiance to a group/community. There are other dimensions to the performance and negotiation of identities but I focus on how the study participants articulate themselves…

Read the entire thesis here.


Never a Neutral State: American Race Relations and Government Power

Posted in Articles, Economics, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2010-05-29 21:46Z by Steven

Never a Neutral State: American Race Relations and Government Power

Cato Journal
Volume 29, Number 3 (Fall 2009)
Pages 417-453

Jason Kuznicki, Research Fellow and Managing Editor, Cato Unbound
Cato Institute

Economics tells us that racial discrimination is expensive. Yet social psychology suggests that humans nonetheless tend to mistrust those whom they identify as outsiders. As a result, governments can exacerbate this mistrust and thereby encourage costly discrimination by creating or maintaining official race-based definitions of outgroups and differential outcomes based on race.

This article reviews evidence from economic and legal history to argue that not only did U.S. governments incentivize and even mandate racial discrimination, but these acts tended to reinforce racial mistrust as time went by. Segregation became more strict, not less, from the end of Reconstruction until the mid-20th century, largely because of growing and self-perpetuating state action. Discrimination created its own constituency.

Some skeptics of the civil rights movement have viewed racial discrimination as an essentially private matter that did not warrant the extensive state intervention. This view is untenable. Although certain measures passed in the name of black civil rights still raise serious legal issues in light of strict constitutional construction, the civil rights movement also dismantled a wide variety of even more troubling measures. Most of these can be characterized as straightforward impediments to the freedoms of movement, trade, and association.

Although, if given a free market and a neutral state, economic incentives will tend to work against racial discrimination, American history has never witnessed a neutral state. Instead, and until the mid-20th century, the market incentives that might have worked against discrimination were repeatedly frustrated. Recent historical scholarship, notably from left-leaning scholars, has done much to
show the depth and surprising recentness of state support for discrimination…

…Consider the American experience with legal definitions of race. From the earliest English settlements to the present, governments have worked to establish and refine definitions of race, almost always for invidious purposes, and frequently with tighter and tighter standards as to who received racial privileges and who did not. This behavior is indeed similar to that observed in guilds, occupational licensure, and professional organizations, in which membership requirements tend to grow more stringent over time and new areas are brought under the restrictive umbrella (Gelhorn 1976, Young 1991, Dorsey 1983).

Legal definitions based on genealogy arrived very early. Although mixed-race individuals were born shortly after the first importation of African slaves, 17th century legislatures nonetheless criminalized sex between Africans and Europeans (Jordan 1968: 139–44). These punishments did little to stop interracial sex, however, as both demographics and ever-stricter laws would seem to demonstrate. A 1705 statute from Virginia declared that the “child, grand child or great grand child of a negro”—that is, anyone of one-eighth or more African descent—would also be classified as black. Colonial North Carolina went further, to one sixteenth (Jordan 1968: 168).

In general, the legal scrutiny applied to one’s ancestors tended to increase rather than decrease over time. By the 1830s, U.S. courts were occasionally encountering the argument that, regardless of what the law said, a person with any degree of racial mixing would have to be considered black, and these arguments gradually spread through the 19th century legal system. Yet it may surprise today’s readers that the first legislated statewide “one-drop” policy only arrived in 1910, following a series of court cases in the late 19th century that had adopted this rule either out of a perceived necessity or, sometimes, at the requests of black litigants. Prior to 1910, and as recently as the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1895, whites had generally rejected the one-drop rule for fear that their own mixed-race ancestries—and liaisons—would be called into question (Sweet 2005: 299–316).

The year 1910 saw the heyday of both Jim Crow and the eugenics movement. Many state legislators were eager to preserve white racial purity, then understood as a scientifically validated goal, and interested parties in the white population increasingly viewed “racial hygiene” as a legitimate state aim (Cynkar 1981). The creators and defenders of anti-miscegenation and one-drop laws believed that their efforts went hand in hand with forced sterilization and the eugenics movement more generally; all were seen as prudent measures to prevent degradation of white America’s genetic stock. Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, which both established the one-drop rule and reiterated the state’s longstanding ban on miscegenation, was signed into law on March 20, 1924, the same day as its sterilization act. Both were understood at the time to be part of a coherent agenda (Sherman 1988: 69).

There is little evidence, however, that this law initially enjoyed significant popular support. On the contrary, outside the legislature and the few interested parties that lobbied for it, the populace appears to have been well aware of (though certainly uncomfortable with) its racially mixed ancestry. As historian Richard B. Sherman writes, “The campaign for racial integrity in Virginia was not the product of a great popular ground swell. Rather, it was primarily the work of [a] dedicated coterie of extremists who played effectively on the fears and prejudices of many whites” (Sherman 1988: 71–72). Sherman argues for the crucial importance of a small and not very well-attended group of “Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America” in drafting and lobbying for Virginia’s one-drop statute. Although the phrase had not yet been made infamous, these clubs called for a “final solution” to “the Negro problem,” terms that even stripped of their Nazi associations are still deeply disturbing (Sherman 1988: 74–75).

Virginia newspapers were among the proposed law’s early supporters, perhaps because they recognized the shock value of a moral panic that combined sex, secrecy, and many readers’ private anxieties. Predictably, another supporter was the director of the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics, Dr. Walter Ashby Plecker, who would see a significant increase in his own power and prestige as the bill became a law. His bureau was charged with classifying the race of all births in the state and with certifying the racial purity of every marriage between Virginia residents, an extraordinary new addition to government power (Sherman 1988: 75–77)…

Read the entire article here.

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The nature of bi-ethnic identity in young adults of Asian and European descent and their perceptions of familial influences on its development

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2010-05-28 04:47Z by Steven

The nature of bi-ethnic identity in young adults of Asian and European descent and their perceptions of familial influences on its development

University of Maryland
Department of Human Development

Amanda Laurel Wagner Hoa

The purpose of this study was to identify the key constructs of bi-ethnic identity, the key familial influences, and other salient influences on bi-ethnic identity as perceived by young adults of Asian and European descent. The rapidly changing demographics of the United States provide an impetus for research on the developmental processes of bi-ethnic individuals. In this qualitative study, participants were interviewed about their bi-ethnic identities and possible influences on bi-ethnic identity development. Data analysis for this study incorporated techniques from grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) and analytic induction (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993). Five bi-ethnic identity types emerged from participants’ responses to interview questions: majority identity, minority identity, dual identity, integrated identity, and unresolved identity. These identity types are a unique contribution to the literature in that they specify how individuals of Asian and European descent define themselves. Additionally, this study identified four facets of bi-ethnic identity that indicate how bi-ethnic individuals think and feel about their background: centrality, self-label, affirmation, and affect. Six categories of influences on bi-ethnic identity development emerged from responses to interview questions (parental, extended family, personal, peer, environmental, discrimination), with 18 subcategories. This study is important because most prior research on bi-ethnic identity has focused on uncovering developmental stages, while we lack understanding of the nature of bi-ethnic identity and influences on its development. This study was important given the dearth of research on bi-ethnic Asians, although future research is needed with other bi-ethnic groups.

Download restricted until 2015-10-06.

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Counseling Interventions with Biracial Black/White Adolescents

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2010-05-28 04:27Z by Steven

Counseling Interventions with Biracial Black/White Adolescents

East Bay Therapist
California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists – East Bay Chapter
Jan/Feb 2005

Venita Antonia-Maria Lue, PhD, MFT

Adolescence is an especially vulnerable time for many biracial individuals because identity issues become racial problems when the interracial person starts dating. All dating is potentially interracial for these adolescents.

The important questions for these biracial teenagers seem to be “Who am I?” and “Where do I fit?” In adolescence the question of social acceptance is very important. Biracial adolescents report anxiety over social acceptance based on exclusion groups in which they were accepted as children. There is an abrupt recognition of the need to redefine and renegotiate their social relationships and status. The process of finding friends who will accept them as individuals and show them unconditional acceptance can be a painful one for some biracial adolescents of either gender…

Read the entire article here.

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Hello, My Race is:… Supporting the Identity of Biracial College Students

Posted in Campus Life, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations on 2010-05-28 03:57Z by Steven

Hello, My Race is:… Supporting the Identity of Biracial College Students

People of Color in Predominantly White Institutions
Ninth Annual Conference POCPWI
5 pages

Natasha H. Chapman, Director for the TCU Leadership Center
Texas Christian College

An entire generation of biracial individuals is coming of age suggesting that colleges and universities will experience an increase in their multiracial student body. Student affairs professionals are faced with the challenge of addressing the needs of this emerging student
group. This presentation will describe this diverse population and educate student affairs professionals on their unique developmental views.

Read the entire paper here.

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Black, White, or Biracial? The Identity Development of Mixed-Race Individuals

Posted in Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2010-05-28 03:12Z by Steven

Black, White, or Biracial? The Identity Development of Mixed-Race Individuals

Cornell University
August 1994
Call Number: Thesis DT 3 .5 1994 M926
152 pages

Mary Ellen Moule

This thesis analyzes the scholarly and popular treatment of the racial identity formation of Americans with one Black and one White parent. The racial identity development of biracial individuals has received increased attention in the social scientific literature and popular media within the last decade. Today, the historical one-drop rule that forced all individuals with any African ancestry to identify as Black, has been replace by a variety of identity options that incorporate one or both of their heritage groups into a self-selected identity matrix. Yet the literature on biracial identity development is still limited by a tendency to offer a single option deemed to be healthy for the individual.

This project reviews the recent literature on biracial identity development and compares the articles published in academic and professional journals to the material found in Interrace, a magazine devoted to interracial families, people, and concerns. In both cases, this analysis seeks to understand and critique the author’s advocacy of a particular identity development pathway. Secondly, I have assessed each of the potential identity choices to determine both their health for the individual and their potential impact on the Black community and race relations in society.

I conclude with my contention that the most appropriate model for biracial identity development offers a multidimensional framework which allows each person to discover and incorporate a racial identity that is best suited to his or her individual background, experience, and needs. Finally, I argue that they should also consider how their personal identity choices will affect their relationships with others and society.


Biracial Identity Development: Therapeutic Implications of Phenotype and Other Contextual Considerations

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations on 2010-05-28 02:36Z by Steven

Biracial Identity Development: Therapeutic Implications of Phenotype and Other Contextual Considerations

Practices of Healing: Using Multicultural Psychotherapy to Confront Symbols of Hate Presentation
Hosted by the Multicultural Research and Training Lab, Graduate School of Education and Psychology Psychology Division
Pepperdine University
35 slides

Krystle G. Hays, M.A. Doctoral Student
Pepperdine University

This presentation examines the interplay of phenotype, environmental influences, and other sociocultural considerations in the self-construction of biracial (African American and Caucasian) individuals. Consideration will also be given to potential therapeutic issues that may arise for someone who is negotiating the development of a biracial identity.

Purpose of Presentation

  • Examining the experience of self-identification for persons of biracial heritage, Black and White.
  • Overview of research that explores Black culture and values, and the formation of identity in this cultural group.
  • Overview of literature that highlights White culture, values, and identity-development.
  • Discussion of biracial identity – is there an intersection between Black and White cultural values or is the biracial individual’s identity an independent formation?
  • Discussion of biracial identity development for persons of Black and White descent; including factors of phenotype and sociocultural factors such as family and environment.
  • Looking at racial identifiers used by biracial persons.

View the presentation (Microsoft Powerpoint) here.

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America’s new racial heroes: Mixed race Americans and ideas of novelty, progress, and Utopia

Posted in Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-05-27 04:00Z by Steven

America’s new racial heroes: Mixed race Americans and ideas of novelty, progress, and Utopia

University of Texas, Austin
May 2007
250 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3345886
ISBN: 9781109010473

Gregory Thomas Carter, Associate Professor of History
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

The University of Texas at Austin in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

My dissertation, “America’s New Racial Heroes,” is the first full-length intellectual history examining the fascination with mixed race people that has been concurrent with the stereotypes that pathologize them. Through five moments in United States history, this project asks what the idea of racially mixed people does for America, uncovering a set of vanguards who suggested that, rather than fear racial mixing, we should embrace it as a means to live up to ideals of equality and inclusion, thus benefiting the nation as a whole. Whether the subject is abolitionist Wendell Phillips’s defense of racial amalgamation, the popularity of the Melting Pot trope, Time Magazine’s 1993 New Face of America issue, or the promises of a “Multiracial” category on the 2000 census, similar notions regarding novelty, progress, and utopia repeat themselves. Rounding out “America’s New Racial Heroes” is an examination of contemporary praise of ambiguity at the same time Americans wish for quantifiable racial makeup. Overall, this project warns against the giddy hope that racially mixed people alone can solve America’s racial problems.

I have several models in bringing together these five cases, including George M. Fredrickson’s The Black Image in the White Mind, Philip J. Deloria’s Playing Indian, and Robert Lee’s Orientals. Each of these shows how discourses of science, nationality, and popular culture shape the identities of dominant and minority groups concurrently. Like these works, my project brings together archival research, cultural studies readings, and theories of racial formation to examine how pro-mixing advocates situate themselves within their own contexts and resonate through time. This work on mixed race identity has many intersections with both fields, accentuating the richness that can result from comparative, ethnic studies work across disciplinary boundaries.
Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Wendell Phillips: Unapologetic Abolitionist, Unreformed
From Brahmin to Radical
Marriage Law Petition and Europe
The United States of the United Races and Beyond
Phillips and Miscegenation

Chapter 2: Israel Zangwill’s Melting Pot vs. Jean Toomer’s Stomach

Chapter 3: The New Face of America: The Beauty, the Beast

Chapter 4: Census 2000 and the End of Race as We Know It

Chapter 5 Praising Ambiguity, Preferring Certainty
Tiger Woods: 100% Unambiguous
Mixed Race Models: Who’s the Fairest of Them All?
DNAPrint: Racial Makeups ‘R’ Us


Read the entire dissertation here.

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Multiple choice: Literary racial formations of mixed race Americans of Asian descent

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2010-05-27 03:12Z by Steven

Multiple choice: Literary racial formations of mixed race Americans of Asian descent

Rice University
May 2001
194 pages

Shannon T. Leonard
Rice University

A thesis submitted in partial fulfullment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation reassesses key paradigms of Asian American literary studies in the interest of critically accounting for the cultural productions of mixed race Asian Americans. Over the last twenty years, Asian American literary criticism has focused narrowly on a small body of writers, such as Maxine Hong Kingston, David Henry Hwang, and Amy Tan, who achieved mainstream popularity with U.S. feminists and/or multiculturalists, or focused on authors like Frank Chin and John Okada whose literary personas and works lend themselves to overt appropriations for civil rights causes and/or identity politics. “Multiple Choice” participates in a renewed interest in the expansion of Asian American literary boundaries and critical inquiry. “Multiple Choice” addresses the complex racial formations of select mixed race Asian American authors and subjects from the turn of the century to the present. My study situates, both theoretically and historically, the diverse ways in which mixed race peoples variously represent themselves. As the dissertation’s metaphorical title suggests, self-representations, or an individual’s ethnic choices, especially in the case of mixed race Americans, are constantly adjudicated by others (e.g. cultural critics, the media, or U.S. census designers and evaluators). Notwithstanding the omnipresence of these external forces, “Multiple Choice” also engages the complex sets of choices made from within specific Asian American communities, particularly those choices that come in conflict with other Asian American identities. The dissertation looks at writers both well-known and virtually unknown: Edith Eaton, Winnifred Eaton, Sadakichi Hartmann, Aimee Liu, Chang-rae Lee, Amy Tan, Shawn Wong, Jessica Hagedorn, Peter Bacho, Thaddeus Rutkowski, and Paisley Rekdal.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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