Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience

Posted in History, Law, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Papers/Presentations, Slavery, United States on 2012-06-12 22:15Z by Steven

Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience

Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival
Japanese American National Museum
Los Angeles, California

Steven F. Riley

The following is the slightly modified text from my opening remarks.

As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, ponder about re-electing our first black President, and begin the remaining 99 decades of the so-called “Mixed Millennium,” never in any point in time have there been so many ways to disseminate and share information about the multiracial experience: online, offline, YouTube, iPhones, blogs, podcasts, self-publishing, publishing on demand, etc. Thoughts and ideas that in the not too-distant past, that may not have been published until after death; can now be broadcast to the world before breakfast.  Never have so many, been able to say so much, so quickly. But while we marvel at the quantity of the information about multiracialism, I ask that we pause and consider the quality of the information about multiracialism.  Never have so many, been able to publish so much… and say so little, so quickly.

The purpose of this workshop is to encourage writers, filmmakers, and activists to consider discourses and texts outside of their own—or their subject’s—personal experiences during the formation of their respective projects.  The ideas discussed during the workshop should not be seen as mandatory or even suggested guidelines for projects, but rather topics for consideration to help an writer or artist present and communicate their ideas in a more meaningful way.

Just a quick question for the audience… What is the year of the first census that tabulated data on individuals of two or more races? [Audience responses were mostly “2000”, there was one “1890.”  The correct answer is “1850.”]

[By the census of 1850, the aggregate number of slaves in the United States was 3,204,313. Of this number, 246,656 were of mixed blood, mulattoes, The number of unmixed negro blood was, therefore, 2,487,455. The free black and mulatto population was 434,495, in the following proportions; blacks, 275,400; mulattoes, 159,095.]

There are three interconnecting areas of discussion that I find lacking in these contemporary discourses.  I will speak briefly on each of them and explain their importance and at the same time use the narrative of Richard and Mildred Loving as a central point of focus.

Our celebration of the Lovings is an excellent entrée into an examination of co-option and the distortion of an American historical narrative.  Similar to the reduction of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life into his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, the narrative of the Lovings has been reduced into the story of “love denied.”  Dr. King did not die because he dreamt of what America could be; he died because he demanded that America be what it should be.  Few remember Dr. King’s criticism of the Vietnam War when he said,

“We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit.”

Like King’s legacy, the popular narrative of the Loving saga has often been crafted in a way that ignores historical facts and denies persistent inequalities.  Like in many stories, there are truths, lies, and omissions. The story of the Lovings is no exception.  It is not that the celebration of the Lovings is inappropriate, it is that it is inadequate.

On the site, the creators state that,

“The Loving Day name comes from Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. We found it quite perfect that a couple named Richard and Mildred Loving won their right to marry, and we know a good thing when we see it. So, Loving Day refers to two kinds of loving: the couple in the Supreme Court case, and the original definition of loving.”

Loving did not legalize interracial marriage in the United States.  It legalized interracial marriage in the 15 remaining states that still had anti-miscegenation laws.  (There were 16 states with such laws at the begining of the trial but the state of Maryland repealed its law while Loving v. Virginia was still pending.)  To its credit, does give the visitor a state-by-state and year-by-year breakdown of anti-miscegenation laws throughout the United States, nevertheless, the inaccuracy of this paragraph remains.  Loving neither increased the number of interracial marriages in the South nor did it create a so-called late-20th century “multiracial baby boom”—the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 did that by increasing immigration from Asia and Latin America.  In fact, ten states have never enacted anti-miscegenation laws. Loving did, according to Victor Thompson, “send a signal to the U.S. population that, in the eyes of the state, interracial marriage was no longer the ‘sin’ that it used to be—even if it still remained a sin in the minds of some.”  Yet even today in 2011, the state of Mississippi with the lowest ratio of white-to-black residents, and as a result the highest potential of interracial unions and multiracial births, reports the lowest rate of self-identified multiracial individuals in the country.

Our preoccupation and celebration with Loving—and in the case of with the word “loving”—diverts our attention away from the institutional inequities—that are still with us—that created “race” and racism as we know it and forced the Lovings to spend over half of their marriage fighting for their marriage.  While we may remember Richard Loving’s famous, “Tell the court I love my wife,” few remember their lawyer Bernard Cohen’s eloquent argument to the Supreme Court where he said,

“The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them. They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia… [is] found unconstitutional.”

Race is a Social Construction

“Race is a social construction.” Though it has been nearly a century since scientists began to recognize that the concept of race has no basis in biology, yet race—or rather the belief in race—remains a salient force in our world today.  As most have you have already heard before, human beings are the most similar species on earth. When we speak of race, we speak of a concept originally designed for the commoditization, exploitation, oppression and near extermination of African, indigenous (and later Asian) populations. Race as biology is fallacious and we know it.  If we teach our children to tell the truth, then we should do the same.  I ask that writers and artists consider whether embracing an identity that is based in whole—or in part—on these social constructions merely reinforces those constructions.  As author Cedric Dover stated so eloquently in 1937, “Today there are no half-castes because there are no full-castes.” Additionally, little attention is paid to the role class has in self-identification.  It would be interesting to see projects that take leave of the college campuses, suburban enclaves, and coffee shops and investigate the lives of individuals in poorer rural and/or urban settings.

While multiracial identities give the appearance of a deconstruction of a social order based on race, I suggest otherwise. For example, many multiracial Americans of African/European descent understandably attempt to claim and reassert their non-African ancestry; reminding us how they are “a little French, a little Scottish, Italian, etc.,” few of us stop to ponder the near utter destruction of their African ancestry and how it has-even with the inclusion of European ancestry-been reduced to “black.”  While some may embrace a “Black/White” identity, I ask where are the “Luba/Lithuanians”, “Shona/Scottish”, “Ewe/Estonians”, “Igbo/Icelanders?”  It used to be our identities told us and others, where we came from, what we did, how we hunted, how we fished, where we pressed our wine, how we made cheese, when we planted, how we worshiped, and how we lived.  Only a few seem to know or notice these nearly infinite identities (even from Europe) have been reduced through the centuries by the onslaught of white supremacy to just a handful of exploitable commoditized categories. We think we can manipulate the morally corrupt framework of “race” into a modern utopia, but even the so-called “new” hybrid identities may be reabsorbed or discarded back into the oppressive essentialist elements.

Individuals and groups today in 2011 that insist and demand we all tell our whole “racial truth”, are no less misguided and insidious than the Virginians who insisted and demanded “racial integrity” in 1924.  While some criticize President Obama for identifying as Black, who here knows that “black” Mildred Loving had European ancestry along with Native American ancestry on both sides of her family tree?  What even the most ardent racists in Virginia knew—that apparently some activists today do not—was that “racial integrity” was and is pure nonsense.

I ask the creators in this room if they could create projects that consider what life in our society would be like without race.


My second area of discussion is by far, my personal favorite, and unfortunately completely neglected in the non-academic contemporary discourses.  Hopefully those in the audience will make my complaint—excuse the pun—history.

No serious discussion about multiracialism can begin without an understanding of history.  History is not merely important, it is essential.  Without an understanding of the past, we shall not only fail at transforming the future, we shall merely repeat it. Loving v. Virginia was the final battle in a 50+ year struggle to repeal all anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. For many, the history of multiracial America—if one even bothers to discuss history—begins in 1967 with Loving.  Yet even the history of this one case suggests that the genesis of multiracial America began much earlier.

As Kevin Maillard has stated,

“Looking back to Loving as the official birth of Multiracial America reinforces the prevailing memory of racial separatism while further underscoring the illegitimacy of miscegenations past. By establishing racial freedom in marriage, Loving also sets a misleading context for the history of mixed race in America. Even though Loving instigates the open acceptance of interracialism, it unintentionally creates a collective memory that mixed race people and relationships did not exist before 1967.”

Loving did not create an explosive growth in the multiracial population.  The heterogeneous residents of Caroline County, Virginia would have scoffed at such a notion just as the inhabitants of San Salvador would have scoffed at Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of their island.  Just as Columbus was a thousand of years too late to claim a “discovery,” those that suggest a post-Loving “multiracial baby boom” are 300 years too late.  If we are to use a point in time as a demarcation of the beginning of multiracial America, we should consider the year 1661, when the then colony of Maryland codified the first anti-miscegenation statute.

The fact that Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Delores Jeter began their courtship in 1950—when he was 17 and she was 11—clearly indicates that their relationship was not transgressive as far as their families were concerned.  In fact, the Jeters made it clear that “Richard [wasn’t] the first white person in our family,” indicating that Mildred—like most “black” Americans—had heterogeneous ancestry.  Perhaps the reason that the 1950’s Loving-Jeter courtship was non-transgressive within their families, was because such relationships were non-transgressive within their community of Caroline County, Virginia; which was known as the “passing capital of America” because so many light-skinned blacks were mistaken for whites.

White Supremacy provides us with what, as far as I can tell is the only interactive state-by-state map of anti-miscegenation laws that I know of. It is indeed—as they put it—“cool”.  Yet despite the information given about these statutes, we are presented no overarching reasons why these laws were enacted in the first place.  Nor are we told who wrote these laws. The site does, correctly state that, “The judiciary system played an important role in regulating interracial relationships.”  Yet something very important is missing from these texts.

Fortunately for us we have a scholar like Peggy Pascoe to tell us the whole truth.  The very first paragraph of her multiple award winning book, What Comes Naturally, Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America, states:

“This book examines two of the most insidious ideas in American history. The first is the belief that interracial marriage is unnatural.  The second is the belief in white supremacy. When these two ideas converged, with the invention of the term “miscegenation” in the 1860s, the stage was set for the rise of a social, political, and legal system of white supremacy that reigned through the 1960s and, many would say, beyond.”

No one should celebrate another “Loving Day” without reading this magnificent book.

In my last of the three areas of discussion, this perhaps is the most difficult to discuss, yet perhaps the most pervasive.  No force in American society has had—and continues to have—a stronger influence on identity than that of white supremacy.

While it is tempting to frame the narrative of the Lovings as a case of love denied by racial difference, there is more to the story.  Anti-miscegenation laws did much more than prevent the marital unions between men and women of different races.  Anti-miscegenation law in fact; transformed the fiction of race into a social reality.  Their enforcement meant that a persons racial identity had to be determined in order to receive a marriage license. Furthermore, the variation in punishments—based on the determined race of the litigants—reinforced the idea of racial hierarchy. Whereas for example, a white person and Indian would both face a $200 dollar fine and two years in prison for illegally getting married, while a white person and a black person would face a $500 fine and five years in prison for the same offense.  Anti-miscegenation laws also disenfranchised spouses and children.  To make matters worse, the idea of racial hierarchy was embraced even in states that had no anti-miscegenation laws. These laws adversely affected all people of color regardless of their marital unions. In short, anti-miscegenation laws were the cornerstone of white supremacy.  Yet despite the multitudes of non-academic discourses celebrating the demise of these laws, absolutely no mention is made in them about white supremacy.

The first anti-miscegenation statutes enacted in Maryland and Virginia in the 1660s were part of the broader strategy of supporting the growing institution of slavery.  The presence of interracial couples and their mixed-race offspring threatened the belief in racial difference, black inferiority, and notion of slavery altogether. To counter this perceived threat, these laws were enacted to create a physical, moral and psychological barrier between the whites and blacks and made the concept of the ownership of another human being acceptable.

On January 6, 1959, just six months after police officers entered through the unlocked front door of the Lovings and arrested the sleeping newly married couple for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, they were sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence was suspended on the condition that they leave the state of Virginia for 25 years.  After passing sentence, the trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile infamously proclaimed:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Although Judge Bazile’s statement is ostensibly about the prevention of what he saw as putative marriages, a closer examination reveals a more sinister agenda. For him, not only did Mildred and Richard Loving not belong in the same bed, they—and all of their respective racial cohorts—did not belong on the same continent.  Although Jim Crow segregation could not send the “races” back to their separate respective “home continents,” it did the next best thing by consigning the races to their separate schools, separate theaters, separate hospitals, and separate water fountains.  Much like his predecessors almost 300 years before, Bazile reaffirmed the framework of white supremacy and the oppression of people of color via the ruse of anti-miscegenation laws.


While we all owe a debt of gratitude to the courageousness of Richard and Mildred Loving that can never be repaid, we should use care on how we celebrate their interracial marriage.  The increased attention towards multiraciality has brought—appropriately—more scrutiny, particularly from the academic community.  More scholars than ever before are examining the role of multiraciality within the framework of racial justice in the United States and abroad. In the case of Latin America, critics have begun to argue that “multiracialism, like the firmly discredited concept of Brazilian racial democracy, functions as an ideology that masks enduring racial injustice and thus blocks substantial political, social, and economic reform.”

The clever positioning by multiracial identity activists of the Loving marriage as the 1960s vanguards of multiraciality, promotes several troubling ideologies that should exposed and examined.  These ideologies effectively distance the Lovings’ saga from the greater African-American struggle for freedom and justice.  Firstly, the emphasis on the “marriage” of the Richard and Mildred Loving implies that these unjust anti-miscegenation laws had no adverse impact towards Black-Americans and other people of color as a whole.  Finally, and most importantly, the continual dissemination of the myth of increased multiracial births since the Loving decision, is an insidious maneuver that illogically seeks to erase the history of over three centuries of interracial marriages and the millions of descendants from those unions.  As I have stated before, we are not becoming a multiracial society, we already are a multiracial society and we have been so for centuries.

By the time the Loving decision marked its first anniversary on June 12, 1968, there was no sign of either a multiracial baby boom or an interracial marriage boom. While the Lovings were finally able to live quietly—and legally—as husband and wife in their Virginia home town, the racist attitudes that inspired the creation of anti-miscegenation laws were still very salient. (In fact, Alabama did not remove its unenforceable statute until 2000).  What “booms” that could be seen and heard were near and far and were those of dismay, protest and death.  Booms were heard loudly in January, 1968 when the North Vietnamese began the Tet Offensive that despite its military failure, shocked policy makers in Washington, D.C. enough that they became convinced that the war—even with its black and white comrades in brutal solidarity—could not be won.  Booms would be heard in cities like Newark, New Jersey—exactly one month after the decision, with riots over racial injustice. Then more “booms” in Detroit, just days later which would be just another one of the 159 race riots in the “long hot summer” of 1967. The most ironic and tragic “boom” would come from the shot of a rifle across the street from a Memphis, Tennessee hotel on April 4, 1968, which would fell Dr. King, America’s true non-violent symbol of racial reconciliation.  From hence “booms” would be heard in violent protest all over America.

The past two years have brought forth an unprecedented amount of critical examination of multiracialism.  Articles, books, live programs, even a conference—The first critical mixed-race studies conference—are forcing us to ask serious and important questions about how multiracialism and multiracial identities may impact  racial dynamics here and abroad.  Even Dr. Naomi Zack—who many of you have just seen in this morning’s movie Multiracial Identity defending the political recognition of a multiracial identity, has since, retracted that position in her article titled “The Fluid Symbol of Mixed Race” in the Fall 2010 issue of the journal Hypatia.

She states:

“The recognition of mixed race that I have advocated would proceed from where we are now, in a society where many people continue to think that human racial taxonomy has a biological foundation. Recognition of mixed race would be fair, because if racially “pure” people are entitled to distinct racial identities, then so are racially mixed people.  Also, the false belief in biological races logically entails a belief in mixed biological races. But, of course, in true biological taxonomic terms, if pure races do not exist, then neither do mixed races (Zack 1997, 183-84; Zack 2002, chap. 7).

However, by the time I finished writing Philosophy of Science and Race (Zack 2002), I had come to the conclusion that broad understanding of the absence of a biological foundation for “race,” beginning with philosophers, was more urgent than mixed-race recognition or identity rights.  Against that needed shift away from the false racialisms to which many liberatory race theorists still clung, advocacy of mixed-race recognition seemed self-serving, if not petty. And I think that the shift is still a work in progress. But still, the ongoing historical phenomena of mixed race and the distinctive experiences of mixed-race people continue to merit consideration, and I am grateful for this opportunity to revisit my earlier confidence and enthusiasm that mixed-race recognition was on the near horizon, with the full-scale undoing of race soon to dawn.”

She continues with,

“…The dangers of insisting on black and white mixed-race political recognition in a system in which blacks are disadvantaged is that a mixed-race group could act as a buffer between blacks and whites and re-inscribe that disadvantage. It is interesting to note that under apartheid in South Africa, there was not only a robust mixed population known as “colored,” but individuals were able to change their race as their life circumstances changed (Goldberg 1995).  From the perspective of mixed-race individuals, this example may seem as though even South Africa was more liberatory on the grounds of race than the one-drop-rule-governed U.S. (This is not to say that South African coloreds had full civil liberties under apartheid, but only that they were better off than many blacks.)  But from a more broad perspective, in terms of white–black relations, recognition of mixed-race identity, while it may advantage mixed-race individuals and add sophistication to a black and white imaginary of race, does little to dislodge white supremacy overall. The public and political recognition of mixed-race identities could be quite dangerous to white–black race relations overall if the position of blacks remained unchanged (Spencer 1999).  But continued obliviousness about mixed-race identities holds the immediate danger of denying the existence of injustice for some presumptively pure blacks who do not have the advantages of white parentage…”

With the next two years promising even more scrutiny of the discussion surrounding multiraciality, it is more important than ever that we all read the academic texts to help us create projects that can produce greater impact.

©2011, Steven F. Riley

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MOsley WOtta Frontman Jason Graham to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Posted in Arts, Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2012-02-24 02:05Z by Steven

MOsley WOtta Frontman Jason Graham to be Featured Guest on Mixed Chicks Chat

Mixed Chicks Chat (The only live weekly show about being racially and culturally mixed. Also, founders of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival) Hosted by Fanshen Cox, Heidi W. Durrow and Jennifer Frappier
Website: TalkShoe™ (Keywords: Mixed Chicks)
Episode: #245 – Jason Graham
When: Wednesday, 2012-02-22, 22:00Z (17:00 EST, 14:00 PST)

Jason Graham,

Steven F. Riley, Guest Host

Don’t miss this chat with Jason Graham aka MOsley WOtta—spoken word artist extraordinaire!

For more on Jason Graham, see:

[Note from Steven F. Riley: I’ll will be the first Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival donor to receive the gift of guest hosting Mixed Chicks Chat]

Listen to the episode here.  Download the episode here.

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Mixed Race Studies with Steve Riley

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Live Events, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, United States on 2012-01-21 02:15Z by Steven

Mixed Race Studies with Steve Riley

BlogtalkRadio: Is That Your Child?
2012-01-20, 19:30 EST/16:30 PST; [2012-01-21, 00:30Z]

Michelle McCrary, Host

ITYC welcomes creator, founder and editor of the site Mixed Race Steve Riley to the podcast this week. In his words, Riley began Mixed Race Studies in April of 2009 “in recognition of our family members and friends who are ‘mixed-race’ and/or raising ‘mixed-race’ children, in response the growing number self-identifying ‘mixed-race’ living here in the Washington, DC area, and finally in celebration of my interracial marriage to my loving wife of 16 years.”

 We’ll talk to him about the site, what he’s learned about issues of mixed identity over the last few years, and if his work  has revealed anything about his own interracial relationship.

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The Multiracial Identity Movement: Countless Ways to Misunderstand Race

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-11-04 04:15Z by Steven

The Multiracial Identity Movement: Countless Ways to Misunderstand Race

Steven F. Riley

In Jen Chau’s essay, “Multiracial Families: Counted But Still Misunderstood,” in the October 31, 2011 issue of Racialiscious, reveals just how much race is misunderstood by some activists within the multiracial identity movement and exemplifies why the movement—in its current form—is incapable of leading us into a post-racial future.

Part of the “quiet” that Ms. Chau is experiencing is due to the realization that President Barack Obama is not the multiracial messiah some had thought he would be. He is neither a messiah, nor is he—as he has stated on multiple occasions—multiracial.  Unfortunately, in many ways, the policies of our first black President differ little from our previous white President (George W. Bush). Is this the “black-white mix” we were hoping for? Perhaps the quiet is the palatable disappointment in President Obama’s first three years office. What part of “race is a social construction” does she not understand?  As succinctly stated by Professor Richard Thompson Ford,

“Because race is a social category and not a biological or genetic one, Obama’s mixed parentage does not determine his race. Mixed parentage may influence one’s appearance, and a person whose appearance is racially ambiguous can influence how she is perceived. In such instances, race may be a question of personal affiliation to some extent. And mixed parentage may influence how one chooses to identify. But for the most part, society assigns us our races. At any rate, Obama’s appearance is not ambiguous, and he unquestionably identifies as black.” (Emphasis is mine.)

A good first step would be to for activists respect Obama’s identity as they would like us to respect theirs.

My theory—which differs considerably from Ms. Chau’s—is that the “quiet” is due to fact that multiracial-identity movement is simply not the progressive force she and others think it is; and we—including activists themselves—are beginning to recognize that.  In many ways, the multiracial-identity movement mimics the tactics, ideologies and demagogueries of the right-wing conservative adherents that it claims to fight.

The problems with the movement are numerous, but they can be narrowed to three major issues: 1) Race as biology, 2) Ahistoricity, and 3) the refusal to discuss the role of white supremacy within the discourses of multiraciality.

After nearly a century of scientific acknowledgment that there is no such thing as “race” as a biological concept, why do some in the movement still pursue issues dealing with so-called “multiracial medicine?”  A truly progressive movement would preface all of its statements with the fact that “race” in short, was a concept used to justify the extermination and enslavement of non-Europeans.

Another deficiency in the multiracial movement is its unwillingness to acknowledge that so-called “racial mixing” in the Americas is a five-century—not four decade—aspect of our history.  Thus even if “race” were a biological concept, we are all most certainly “mixed” by now.  Rather than making hypocritical (demanding the freedom to self-identify for some but not for others) pronouncements on President Obama’s heterogeneous background, multiracial activists should also consider the heterogeneity of the First Lady Michelle Obama, the overwhelming vast majority of black and Latino Americans, and yes, a significant segment of white Americans. In 1927, 40 years before the mythological baby-boom that was allegedly brought about by Loving v. Virginia and just seven years after the last 20th-century census that would enumerate “mixed-race” people (Ms. Chau seems to have forgotten the seven past censuses starting in 1850 that counted mixed-race individuals), anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits, revealed that,

“The word “Negro” is, biologically, a misnomer, for the African Negroes, brought to the United States as slaves, have crossed in breeding with the dominant White population, as well as with the aboriginal American Indian types with whom they came into contact, so that there is today only a small percentage of the American Negroes who may be considered Negro in the ordinary sense of the term.” (The emphasis is mine.)

When an early 20th-century anthropologist—in the midst of an overtly racist era—can show more insight that 21st century activists—in the midst of the so-called “Age of Obama” era—we have a serious problem.

Lastly, the most deafening “quiet” within the multiracial movement, is its silence on the role of white supremacy in the continuing oppression and shaping of identities here in United States and around the world.  It is the ideology of white supremacy that created the notion of race as biology, then racialized and dehumanized, enlslaved, and exterminated people around the world for centuries—and continue to do—to preserve the current Eurocentric hegemonic paradigm.  As Professor G. Reginald Daniel has warned,

“We should be especially concerned about any half-hearted attack on the Eurocentric paradigm in the manner of interracial colorism that merely weakens rather than eradicates the dichotomization of blackness and whiteness, while leaving intact the racial hierarchy that maintains white privilege.”

The type of incidents that agitate the multiracial identity movement today are not the growing wealth disparities among racialized groups, or current vigorous attempts to curtail voting rights of minorities ahead of the 2012 General Election, but rather the freely chosen racial identity by the President or the chosen racial identity of the child of a Hollywood celebrity.  As Ms. Chau has stated, there are many ways that we have to fight racism and ignorance, yet the movement—particularly on the internet—is more interested in exploiting the bodies of young people by hosting “mixed-race” fashion shows that conjure-up images of Quadroon Balls from the early 19th-century or posting photographs of the allegedly “multiracial person of-the-day” in a self-aggrandizing exercise that Professor Rainier Spencer has coined as “miscentrism.”  At this rate, the multiracial-identity movement will be no more effective in combating racism and ignorance than a lukewarm decaffeinated soy-triple-shot no-fat latte at Starbucks.

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Racial Truth?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, My Articles/Point of View/Activities on 2011-08-06 18:37Z by Steven

Individuals and groups today in 2011 that insist and demand we all tell our whole “racial truth,” are no less misguided and insidious than the Virginians who insisted and demanded “racial integrity” in 1924.

Steven F. Riley, “Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience,” (paper presented at the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, Los Angeles, California, June 11, 2011).

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Critical Mixed Race Studies 2010 Event Report

Posted in Media Archive, Reports, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2011-02-19 20:31Z by Steven

Critical Mixed Race Studies 2010 Event Report


Wei Ming Dariotis, Associate Professor Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University, IPride Board

Camilla Fojas, Associate Professor and Chair
Latin American and Latino Studies
DePaul University

Laura Kina, Associate Professor Art, Media and Design and Director Asian American Studies
DePaul University

Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference
DePaul University, Lincoln Park Campus
2250 N. Sheffield
Chicago, Illinois USA 60614
2010-11-05 through 2010-11-06

For the inaugural CMRS 2010 conference, we had over 450 people registered and 430 people actually showed up from all over the U.S. from Hawaii to Tennessee to New York as well as scholars from Canada, Korea, and the UK. The programming included 62 sessions of panels, round tables, and seminars; multiple film screenings, keynote addresses by leading scholars Mary Beltrán from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Andrew Jolivette from San Francisco State University, and community activist and artist Louie Gong from MAVIN and Eighth Generation; a Mixed Mixer social event with live jazz music; a performance by comedian Kate Rigg; an Informational Fair; a Book Table; Caucus and Business meetings.

We sold out three boutique hotels with CMRS attendees and many panels were standing room only or at capacity. We were honored to have many senior scholars present at CMRS 2010 as well as a strong contingent of undergraduate and graduate students from area colleges, community members, and a surprisingly high number of graduate students and junior colleagues from across the country. A critical mass of new media artists (podcasters, bloggers, film and video) including bloggers Steven F. Riley from and Fanshen Cox from the Mixed Chicks Chat podcast joined us as well. Representatives from community organizations came out in full force from: MAVIN, SWIRL Inc., Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, Multiracial Americans of Southern California,, and the Biracial Family Network.

You can find links to download the conference poster and a PDF of the schedule as well as the video of the welcoming address and the three keynote addresses and audio recordings from 18 sessions via iTunes U on the CMRS 2010 website:

Outcomes and Future Goals
We can’t express how grateful we are to all the attendees, participants, volunteers, hosts and co-sponsors for making this event happen.

Following the 2010 CMRS conference, we were able to establish the following Tangible Outcomes:

  • DePaul’s Media Production & Training (Wen Der Lin and Greg Barker) video recorded, edited, and posted video from the welcoming address and the three keynote addresses on iTunes U.
  • DePaul’s Media Production & Training (Wen Der Lin and Russ Patterson) worked with the organizers and participants to audio record conference sessions. 18 conference sessions were edited and MP3 audio was posted on iTunes U.
  • DePaul’s Linda Greco created updated the conference website under the Global Asian Studies URL (
  • Laura Kina started a Google group “criticalmixedracestudies” which participants are using to continue to stay in touch. If you haven’t joined yet, please do so at:!
  • CMRS participants are also using our “Critical Mixed Race Studies” facebook page to stay in touch. Friend us!
  • Chris Paredes, a student at the University of Washington, organized a network of mixed race student organizations from across the country to stay in touch on a regular basis. If you would like to join this discussion, please contact Chris at:
  • Amanda Erekson, President of MAVIN, is coordinating monthly call ins for the community orgs. If your mixed race community organization would like to participate, contact Amanda for details at:
  • DePaul LA&S undergrad student, Erin Kushino, would like to start a mixed race student org at DePaul. If you know DePaul students who might want to help her with these efforts, please contact her at:

Goals in progress and/or that we need help with still:

  • Next CMRS conference – Camilla Fojas and the DePaul University Department of Latin American and Latino Studies will host the second CMRS conference in November 2012. Be on the look out for the call for papers shortly. Please direct all conference questions to Camilla Fojas at:
  • G. Reginald Daniel and Paul Spickard (University of California, Santa Barbara), Laura Kina (DePaul University), Wei Ming Dariotis (San Francisco State University) plan to launch an online peer reviewed CMRS journal. We are in the process of reviewing digital platforms for the online journal and drafting a list of CMRS journal advisory board members. We will be sending out invitations to senior scholars shortly. We will be looking for additional junior and senior scholars to be blind reviewers and guest editors. Please direct all questions about the journal to G. Reginald Daniel at:
  • Plans are in the works to found an association for CMRS. If you are interested in volunteering for a leadership role, please contact Laura Kina at: Our immediate needs are for a volunteer lawyer to review our by-laws and help us apply for non-profit status.

Thank you for supporting the inaugural CMRS 2010 conference!

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Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2010-11-09 20:31Z by Steven

Finally, while his name does not appear in the text or bibliography, I want to acknowledge the deep debt I owe to Steven Riley, who maintains the mixed-race scholarly website, “Mixed Race Studies: Scholarly Perspectives on the Mixed Race Experience” (, which is the most comprehensive and objective clearinghouse for scholarly publications related to critical mixed-race theory of which I am aware.  It is through this very robust resource that I came across a goodly number of scholarly references I cite in this book.

Rainier Spencer, Reproducing Race: The Paradox of Generation Mix. (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Reinner Publishers, Inc., 2011), x.

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Posted in New Media, Papers/Presentations on 2010-04-11 05:23Z by Steven

A Paper Presented at
Who Counts & Who’s Counting? 38th Annual Conference National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference
Session: The race in “mixed” race? Reiterations of power and identity
Washington, DC

Steven F. Riley


In the paper I describe the origins of a non-commercial website that provides a gateway to contemporary interdisciplinary (sociology, psychology, history, law, etc.) English language scholarship about the relevant issues surrounding the topic of multiracialism.  I discuss the inspiration, conception, development and future plans for the site.

Good Morning.

I would like to take a few moments of your time to describe an online resource I created a year ago called  Before I continue, I would like to thank Dr. Rainier Spencer and Dr. Sue-Je Gage for giving me this opportunity to speak to you.

The heightened visibility of self-described ‘mixed-race’ individuals in the entertainment industry and professional sports has of recent years has captured the attention and fascination of the American public.  This heightened awareness has even led to changes in the way our decennial census collects racial data.  Even more recently, the election of ‘mixed-race’ individuals across the country from mayors (such as this city) to the president of our country has led some to believe we have in fact entered a ‘post-racial’ society.

The skeptic in me has always questioned the validity of the American popular culture multiracial gaze.  To be honest, I too have occasionally succumbed to the gaze of increasing numbers of interracial relationships (like my own 24 year relationship with my loving wife Julia), and the offspring of such unions.  In the Silver Spring, Maryland area that my wife and I live in, interracial couples and mixed-race individuals seem to be everywhere.  And this, in a racialized society as ours is fascinating.  But, like many things, what is fascinating today may be irrelevant next week, despised next month, discarded next year… and rediscovered next century. 

I was drawn to the subject of mixed race because it is so complex.  I wanted to ask questions, and to share the answers and information I found along the way.  For me, current discourses about multiracialism in pop-culture today provide us with only a cursory understanding of the lives of ‘mixed-race’ people and the societal implications of their increasing presence.  The many shortcomings of pop-cultural discourses are too numerous to mention, but include.

  1. An utter lack of historical perspective.  This ‘new’ thing has been occurring in the Americas for over five centuries.
  2. An unwillingness to dismiss or even question the (scientifically proven) fallacious concept of ‘race’ despite the fact that mixed-race individuals—as Dr. Spencer says—embody its’ fallaciousness.
  3. An unwillingness to question whether our ‘fascination’ with multiracialism may in fact be due to the persistence of racism.
  4. A tendency to view the increased number of ‘mixed-race’ individuals of heralding in an era of a “post-racial” America.

To that end, I have turned my gaze away from television, away from rising and falling sports figures, towards the writings of individuals who have dedicated their life’s work to elucidating us about multiracialism.


 I began this journey, quite by accident in January 2008 when the son of a college friend of my wife Julia came to visit us for dinner at our home.  This young man—who we had not seen since he was a child—is the son of a black Haitian man and a white Jewish woman, mentioned to us that he was bringing along his girlfriend.  This caused me to spend an inordinate amount of time wondering about the girlfriend. I’m sure you have heard the phrase or question that “dare’th not speak its’ name”… “What are you?”  “What is she?”  I wondered was she “black” like his father or “white” like his mother?  Would he be in an interracial relationship like his parents?  Would his parents approve of the relationship? Was I asking myself a lot of stupid questions and what did it matter anyway?

As it turned out, our young guest’s girlfriend (now fiance) was in fact the daughter of a black father and a white mother also.  Were they an interracial couple?  Would their children be ‘mixed-race’?…. or not.

As the evening progressed, our conversation turned to politics and our preferred candidates for Democratic presidential nomination.  Julia and I supported then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, because… we thought she could win.  Our two young guests disagreed and were convinced—and convinced us—that this “black man of mixed heritage” named Barack Obama could indeed be elected to the presidency.

My journey continued after the election of President Obama and before his inauguration.  It seemed that everywhere I looked there were articles about interracial families on television programs, in newspapers, magazines and websites… again.  Were “mixed race” people in hiding since a previous victory, not in the electoral politics, but on the golf course in 1997?  Was America on the verge of a becoming post-post racial society?  What I yearned for was not another 15 second sound bite about the “changing face of America”, but an honest appraisal of what the apparent heightened visibility of mixed-race people really meant for America.

In February of 2009, I discovered the online podcast Mixed Chicks ChatStarted in May of 2007 by educator Fanshen Cox and author Heidi W. Durrow, this wonderful podcast promotes itself as “the only weekly show about being racially and culturally mixed.”  Available live or recorded via TalkShoe or recorded via Apple’s iTunes, the 150 episodes—I appeared as a featured guest on the 150thepisode this last Wednesday—provide listeners with insightful and thought provoking discussion surrounding ‘mixed-race’ issues.  After listening to several live podcasts, I found the hosts Ms. Cox and Ms. Durrow quite knowledgeable about all aspects of the ‘mixed-race’ experience.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the some of the listeners.  On many occasions, I would post links in the “chat room” to books and articles for fellow participants unfamiliar with terms such as “one-drop rule”, “Jim Crow”,  etc.  It was after a few weeks of this exercise, I decided to create an online resource to answer these many questions.

To obtain the knowledge to begin the process of building this resource, I purchased and read Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe’s ‘Mixed Race’ Studies: A Reader.  Considered by some the definitive anthology on the subject, ‘Mixed Race’ Studies takes the reader on a 150 year interdisciplinary trek encompassing the origins of “miscegenation theory” and false notions of moral and hybrid degeneracy, to contemporary discourses on identity politics and celebration, and finally to the critiques of these political movements.  Great anthologies like ‘Mixed Race’ Studies encourage the reader to further their scholarship by reading additional discourses by the various authors.  That was and remains the goal for my site, which I named in April of 2009.  is a non-commercial website that provides a gateway to contemporary interdisciplinary (sociology, psychology, history, law, etc.) English language scholarship about the relevant issues surrounding the topic of multiracialism.

The site contains over 1,000 posts that include over 400 articles, 300 books, and over 100 papers, reports and dissertations.

The site is by no means an exhaustive listing of discourses on ‘mixed race’ scholarship.  Some examples of the scholarship that is not available on the site are as follows:

  • Non-English language resources.
  • Out-of-print resources.  This includes important texts such as Everett V. Stonequist’s The Marginal Man: A Study in Personality and Culture Conflict (1937) and other works.
  • Non-web-based resources.

I created this site:

  • For all of those who think that race is a biological construction.
  • For Daphne who thought interracial marriage was not legal in the US until 1967.
  • For those who have always wondered why people who have complexions that range from white to dark-brown are classified as ‘black’.
  • For the young student of my 40-something pal Bradley in Manchester, England who was asked if there were any ‘mixed-race’ people older than him in Britain.
  • For Mike who told me there “weren’t many scholarly resource available on mixed-race identity.”

The goals of the site are to:

  • Provide visitors with links to books, articles, dissertations, multimedia and any other resources to enable them to further their (and my) knowledge on the topic.
  • Remind visitors that so-called “racial mixing” has been occurring in the Americas for over five centuries and in fact, all of the founding nations of the Americas were mixed-race societies at their inception.
  • Ultimately support a vision of the irrelevance of race.

In supporting the vision of the irrelevance of race, I’ve been forced to ask myself the following questions.

  • Is the ideal of no racial distinction a possibility?
  • Does mixed race identity continue the racial hierarchy/paradigm or does it change it?
  • Will the acknowledgement and study of multiraciality help or hinder a goal of a post-racial future?
  • Will the sheer volume of mixed race people provoke change?
  • …But if everybody has been mixed already and our racial paradigm hasn’t changed in the last 400 years, what do we make of the changes in these last 40 years?
  • And what changes can we expect in the next 40?

Future plans for the site

After creating the site, I firmly believed that the audience would be individuals like myself—non-scholars—with a casual to moderate interest in multiracial identity issues.  At best, I hoped that parents or caregivers of mixed race children would find some interest in the site.  To my surprise, I have discovered that the overwhelming audience—at least by those who have contacted me—have been individuals in academia!  Many scholars in fact, are regular subscribers to the site.  A professor at the University of California has told me that his institution has been trying to set up a website similar to mine, but for now there are no funds to proceed.

As for now, remains a labor of love, requiring minimal financial resources to host ($10.00 per/month).  Future plans involve utilizing my programming and database skills to produce a scholar bibliographic search engine and other features.

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Mixed Chicks Chat Interview with Steve Riley, Creator of Mixed Race Studies

Posted in Audio, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-04-08 01:01Z by Steven

Mixed Chicks Chat Interview with Steve Riley, Creator of Mixed Race Studies

Mixed Chicks Chat (The only live weekly show about being racially and culturally mixed. Also, founders of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival) Hosted by Fanshen Cox and Heidi W. Durrow
Website: TalkShoe™ (Keywords: Mixed Chicks)
Episode: #147 – Steven F. Riley
When: Wednesday, 2010-04-07 21:00Z (17:00 EDT, 14:00 PDT)

Steven F. Riley

Mike Peden (aka The Sports Brain, or ‘TSB’) is a journalist whose film “What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race” screened at the 2nd Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival. He will be interviewing Steven F. Riley (aka SilverSpringSteve) whose blog has over 1,000 posts on the study of multiracialism.

Listen to the episode here or download it to your computer here.

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