Mixed race in a world not yet post-racial
The Seattle Times
Jerry Large, Staff Columnist
Populations of humans have always been mixing genes, but we still have trouble with the concept.
Two recent books by University of Washington professors address what mixed means in America, particularly examining the period between the Census Bureau’s decision in the late 1990s to allow people, beginning in 2000, to choose more than one race, and the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Both books say something about how mixed race as a category is sometimes used to further marginalize African Americans.
“Troubling the Family: The Promise of Personhood and the Rise of Multiracialism,” by Habiba Ibrahim, an assistant professor of English, is written largely for an academic audience.
“Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial,” is written by Ralina Joseph, associate professor in the Department of Communications.
Both are important works, but today I’m going to focus on Joseph’s book, which is also scholarly, but written with the general reader in mind.
We’re not post-racial yet, Joseph told me when we talked over coffee this week, and more mixing isn’t getting us there, because we haven’t shaken old ways of categorizing people. The combination of black and white, weighted with centuries of racism, raises the most issues.
Joseph noted the census change was most notably championed by Susan Graham, a white mother who wanted her son to be able to mark down multiracial, and, Joseph said, “had her young son testify before Congress, so that he did not have to identify as black.”…
…But seeing multiracial as a separate category, a way of transcending blackness, is not a step forward, and it isn’t racially neutral, Joseph said. It is, instead, a new use of old concepts, an affirmation that blackness is something to escape.
Embracing all parts of a mixed heritage is a more positive act than migrating to a new category. Joseph calls herself a mixed-race African American. “One can’t think about one’s own identity choices without thinking about power realities.”…
…The African-American community has long been multiracial, ranging from milky skin and green eyes to deep chocolate, but to be counted as white still requires “purity.” It’s a protected status…
Read the entire article here.