Letter to the Editor

Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 15:59:03 -0800 (PST)
From: Maya N. Smallwood
Subject: Letter to the Editor

Dear Mr. Landrith, I consider myself well-versed on
multiracial/interracial issues, as well as the history and legacy
of race in the United States. In fact, I am a graduate student in
communication studies who is interested in identities, especially
those that are linked to race. I understand what your organization,
interracial parents, and their children are fighting for. I
understand that, in a world that seeks to classify people using
racial fallacies has muted the avowal of multiracial identity. I
wish to, however, point out the danger associated with the avowal
of a racial identity of any kind, no matter how jusitifed it may
be. To label oneself "multiracial" or to say that one is one half
of an "interracial" relationship is to legitimize racism in any
form. Why? Because one has, in effect, accepted that one's parents,
who are presumably both human, should be seen as racially different
from one another. One admits, regretably, that one's significant
other is a racial Other. One cannot bemoan the existence of race
and decry its oppressive application to individuals of mixed
cultural heritage and some intercultural marriages while attempting
to create an identity based on race. How does your attempt to
classify the children of two people with "racialized" differences
as multiracial or biracial differ from the traditional
classification of human beings according to monoracial
categories? Upon what is the avowal of a multiracial or biracial
identity contingent? Must I look at my parents and see one as
"Black" and one as "White?" If I cannot – if, in fact, my
"multiracial" heritage has been obscured by intracultural marriage
between "Black" people with varying degrees of African, Latino,
Native American, and European heritage, may I not avow a
multiracial identity? If I look at my significant other and see
the cultural imprint of centuries of "racial" intermixing, yet
that face is unambiguously "Black" in the eyes of most (even
multiracialists), if I say that I am involved in an interracial
relationship will I be wrong?

If the "multiracial" label is an attempt to give the children of
"interracial" parents a non-racist identity, it falls far short.
Furthermore, the attacks launched by multiracialists on monoracial
labeling as "racist," are naive at best. We lived in a racialized
world. We tend to see ourselves in racial terms, all of which are
culturally derived and change from culture to culture. No one is
exempt from the "sickness" of race, and no one may stand on
self-righteous ground when defending racial categorization of
any kind. To do so is to admit hypocrisy. I think that some
(mainly African Americans, a quintessentially "multiracial" group)
who oppose the multiracial LABEL (they cannot oppose multiracial
identity – people choose to be what they want to be) are attuned
to this hypocrisy.

In closing, I would ask you, as you so often ask of American
society, to think of the children. If you truly want them to live
free of racism and racial lables, creating another label based on
race only contributes to the continuation of racialist thinking.
Loving a person of another "race" does not exempt you or your
partner from advancing racialist rhetoric. Will you teach your
children to think inside our racist box, or will you encourage
them to transcend it? To me, if you goal is truly to rid us of
racism, you should oppose racial labels of any kind. Any other
goal is complicitous, and, as such, may not launch criticism that
attacks the "racialist" goals of others. if you think about it,
their goals are similar to yours: creating and sustaining a
collective racial identity. I am the AFRICAN AMERICAN descendant
of "interracial" ancestors on both sides. "What" does that make me?
Would you call me multiracial? Could I check that special "multiracial"
box? Probably not. The labels seems to be a societal apologia for
the problematic racial identity of children of "interracial"
parents, rather than a more "accurate" conception of multiracial
identity. Are you merely trying to carve out a special identity
for your own "multiracial" children, or do you seek to classify
your descendants as well? I would advise you, as a collective,
to examine the history of African Americans, a "multiracial"
collective created by the one drop rule. African Americans chose
to enhance a cultural identity rather than remain divided by their
diverse "racial" background. Will your multiracial label legislate
a similar collective in response to racism? I can't stop you, but
know that personal identities of future generations will be
oppressed by this label because it has been cut by the same
racialist cloth. Labels OF ANY KIND never liberate, they only
suppress diversity and oppress difference. Fight for your
"liberation" if you must, but please do not do it in the name
of freedom from racial categorization.

Editor's Response:  Pardon me, but "naive"?  Since you used the word,
let me clarify something for you.  It is very naive of you to say
that you would probably not be allowed to check a box called
"multiracial".  Who told you that?  You can check any box you like,
there is no "background Gestapo" at the ready to check your answer.
Anyone who tells you that you can't check the box of your choice
is not being truthful.  Avoid such harbingers of misinformation
in the future, for they traffic in lies.  Second, The Multiracial
Activist has called for the complete abolition of racial categories
on more than one occasion.  For more information on abolition of racial
categories, see: Abolition of Racial Categorization

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.