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

By Rainier Spencer | Go to book overview

6
Thinking About Transcending Race

I wish you would tell us what a "multiracial" identity is. When I talk about a "pluralistic" identity, I don't mean that I walk around thinking of myself as a "pluralistic." I mean that I hold many different identifications simultaneously. Some of those are "racially" situated, some ethnically, some occupationally, etc. But what does it mean when "multiracial" is transformed from an adjective to a noun, from having an identity which is multiracial, to identifying as multiracial?

-- Aubyn Fulton, professor of psychology, who describes himself as black and Jewish1

Identity is not a single, unitary construct. When we speak of this or that person's identity, we oversimplify a very complex phenomenon. There is no single or overarching identity; rather, there are identities. A person may simultaneously consider several such identities to be of primary importance to his or her selfconcept. Certainly, the identities of woman, man, parent, employer, student, debtor, recovering alcoholic, home owner, and so on are important ways in which people see themselves. It is a gross oversimplification, though, to see people in terms of only a single identity. Surely a woman's full identity is not revealed without describing more of her than just her sex. Her sex is obviously an important aspect of her total identity, yet so are her occupation, interests, age, educational level, nationality, and a host of other predicates.

Of course, there are times and places where an emphasis on one or another of these identities is appropriate or necessary, but my interest here is in focusing on what I have argued is a false identity -- racial identity. Of the three main social organizing forces in the United States (gender, class, and race), race is the most suspect. The myth of race exists in the minds of its believers, but it is not part of the physical world. Clearly, organizing socially by race is neither natural nor necessary. It is a learned activity based on acceptance of a biological fallacy. I am certainly not denying that people do in fact organize themselves by race, and that people commit acts -- sometimes horrible ones -- based on a belief in race. I am arguing instead that such racial organization, and the racism that accompanies it,

-189-

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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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