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

By Rainier Spencer | Go to book overview

ment into a sociopolitically defined single racial group is necessary in order to be a socially recognized, functional member of society." 101 This claim in turn leads Williams to posit differential "social-psychological processing strategies" for biracial persons. 102 It is profound and frightening that so many people, especially scholars, will invest so much of their personal identity in the racial myth as opposed to unmasking it.

Audrey Smedley seeks to draw attention to this problem by pointing out that "nothing is more indicative of the plight, and the pathology, of using race/biology as the main form of identity than the efforts on the part of some people to establish a 'mixed-race' category in the census and thus in American society." 103 Smedley sees multiracial angst as dependent on a prior belief in the monoracial construct, a belief that leads these persons to feel that they therefore have "no identity at all." 104 In Smedley's account:

Some advocates of a new "mixed-race" category have argued that they need this new identity in order to recognize the "culture" of their white parent. In American ideology, a black parent presumably has "black" culture, and the white parent has "white" culture, with the unstated understanding that these are incompatible ways of life. Aside from the fact that this idea is nonsense, it continues to feed the psychic stress of a few individuals who have the feeling that they do not know who they are. 105

Biological racial classification is of course a fallacy. Rather than rejecting it as false, however, multiracial identity politics has as its goal the modification of this fallacious system of classification to include a multiracial category. Herein lies a large portion of the inconsistency and contradiction of multiracial advocacy, for no coherent politics of personal or group identity can arise from the ashes of the bankrupt concept of biological race. This chapter has been concerned with the historical and philosophical implications of multiracial identity politics. There are also practical matters connected with the potential adoption of a multiracial category by the U.S. government. In the next chapter I shall undertake a dose examination of formal proposals to add a multiracial category to federal racial classifications.


Notes
1.
House Subcommittee on Census, Statistics, and Postal Personnel, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, Hearings on the Review of Federal Measurements of Race and Eth- nicity, testimony by Susan Graham on June 30, 1993, 103d Cong., 1st sess., April 14, June 30, July 29, and November 3, 1993, 119. (Response to written question of Representative Thomas Sawyer).
2.
Robyn Wiegman, American Anatomies: Theorizing Race and Gender ( Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995), 5-6.
3.
Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South ( New York: Vintage Books, 1956), 23. See also Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 ( New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 164.

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • A Note About Electronic Sources xiii
  • Acronyms xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 10
  • 1 - The American Racial Paradigm 13
  • Notes 49
  • 2 - Federal Racial Categorization 55
  • Notes 82
  • 3 - Multiracial Identity 87
  • Notes 119
  • 4 - The Multiracial Category Initiative 125
  • Notes 160
  • 5 - Final Proposal, Final Recommendation, Final Decision 167
  • Notes 185
  • 6 - Thinking About Transcending Race 189
  • Notes 198
  • Bibliography 201
  • Index 213
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