THE LAST WORD: The Myths of Race and the Freedom of Multiculturalism

By W, Henry | Black Issues in Higher Education, July 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

THE LAST WORD: The Myths of Race and the Freedom of Multiculturalism


W, Henry, Black Issues in Higher Education


THE LAST WORD: The Myths of Race and The Freedom of Multiculturalism

Our identity as Black people has been significantly influenced by mythical traditions which have shaped our thinking and our lives.

For instance, since I was a young boy I have heard the phrase, "One drop of Black blood makes you Black". And it is easy to think of many other myths with vivid word pictures that support racism within our own struggle, like the statement, "If you're yellow, you're mellow; if you're brown, stick around; if you're Black, get back." The idea that there is some hidden genealogy that validates the existence of a pure race give credence to degrading terms such as "mulatto," which compares human beings to mules.

There was a good reason Black blood myths originated: Slave holders wanted to insure that anyone with Black ancestry would be enslaved. Caste systems have long outlived their usefulness and, without a doubt, most of these little mythical sketches of "house and field Negroes" remain effective in causing divisions among ourselves and some of our allied ethnic groups.

Generally, public institutions use six categories to identify groups of people: African American, Native American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and Other. In the past fifty years, we of African descent have shaped our identity from Negro and Colored, to Black and African American. If we are diligent, someday all of these categories will disappear.

As a matter of fact, like mulatto, all assigned categories are dehumanizing. They are rudimentary classifications of us as humans, placed in a box. The fact of the matter is that no two people in this world are the same. In effect, every human being is a race.

These days we are faced with a challenge of accepting or rejecting yet another racial category defined as "Multiracial." As always, these categories require us, as a nation of people, to racially and ethnically identify ourselves. These insidious racial groupings affect all of us in many ways because institutionalized ethnic classifications involve the distribution of political power and money.

Psychologically, most Black people identify with the Africans brought to America as slaves and will like myself mark the racial category "African American."

However, a "Multiracial" category would certainly be more preferable to those who want to identify themselves as being of mixed heritage. …

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