Spurious Issues: Race and Multiracial Identity Politics in the United States

By Rainier Spencer | Go to book overview
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3
Multiracial Identity

Question: By what characteristics do multiracial people define themselves as a group oral distinct category?

Answer: The essential attribute of a multiracial category is that those persons have parents of two or more racial categories.

-- Susan Graham, executive director, Project RACE 1

If identities are not metaphysical, timeless categories of being; if they point not to ontologies but to historical specificities and contingencies; if their mapping of bodies and subjectivities are forms of and not simply resistances to practices of domination -- then a politics based on identity must carefully negotiate the risk of reinscribing the logic of the system it hopes to defeat.

-- Robyn Witegman 2


Philosophical and Ideological Considerations

The first point that must be made about the notion of multiracialism is that it is in no sense new. In America, the concept is at least as old as the first attempts of British colonials to legislate against "interracial marriages, in order to prevent 'that abominable mixture and spurious issue." 3 Additionally, there have long been people who have refused to identify themselves according to the dictates of the American racial paradigm. 4 What we are witnessing at the dawn of the new millennium, however, is the beginning of a more public debate over race and identity that is paralleled by a slowly expanding scholarly discourse on multiraciality. Part of this new activity is a multiracial identity movement that has as one of its principal goals the modification of the federal race categories to include a multiracial category as denoting a distinct racial group.

The two main thrusts of the multiracial identity movement argue for accuracy and for self-esteem. The contention is that multiracial identification is

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