Critical ‘Mixed Race’?

Critical ‘Mixed Race’?

Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture
Volume 1, Issue 2, 1995
pages 381-395
DOI: 1080/13504630.1995.9959443

Lewis R. Gordon, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought and Director of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies
Temple University

An African-American couple found themselves taking their child, a baby of a few month’s age, to a physician for an ear infection. Since their regular physician was out, an attending physician took their care. Opening the baby girl’s files, he was caught by some vital information. The charts revealed a diagnosis of ‘H level’ alpha thalassemia, a genetic disease that is known to be among two per cent of Northeast Asian populations. He looked at the couple.

The father of the child, noticing the reticence and awkwardness of the physician, instantly spotted a behaviour that he had experienced on many occasions.

‘It’s from me’, he said, ‘She’s got the disease from me’.
‘Now, how could she get the disease from you?’, the physician let out.
‘My grandmother is Chinese’, the father explained.

The physician’s face suddenly shifted to an air of both surprise and relief. Then he made another remark, ‘Whew! I was about to say, ‘But — you’re black’.


Realizing his error, the physician continued. ‘I mean, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, I know Hispanics who are also Asians, so why not African Americans?’

Yeah. Why not?

The expression mixed-race has achieved some vogue in contemporary discussions of racial significations in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is significant that these three countries are marked by the dominance of an Anglo cultural standpoint. In other countries, particularly those marked by Spanish, Portuguese, and French influences, the question of racial mixture has enjoyed a great deal of specificity and simultaneous plurality. For the Anglos, however, the general matrix has been in terms of ‘whites’ and ‘all others’, the consequence of which has been the rigid binary of white and non-whites. It can easily be shown, however, that the specific designations in Latin and Latin-American countries are, for the most part, a dodge and that,…

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