Hearing on Multiracial Identification

Statement of Nathan Douglas
Interracial Family Circle

Before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology
of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight

Hearing on Multiracial Identification
22 May 1997

Congressman Horn, distinguished committee members, fellow multiracial activist, well-meaning opponents, members of the press, and others gathered in this room, greetings and best wishes to each and every one of you.

Before I begin, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Congressman Horn for including me in these proceedings. Voices like mine are seldom heard, largely because people get very uncomfortable when we dare challenge their irrational beliefs regarding race. Thank you and your committee, Mr. Horn, for allowing me to testify, and for being so open-minded and fair.

Secondly, I want to acknowledge and praise the growng multiracial community for finally speaking out on this issue. Specifically, I give much respect to Ramona Douglass, president of the American Multiethnic Association (AMEA), Susan Graham of Project RACE, and Mr. Charles Byrd, publisher of the electronic magazine "Interracial Voice." All of them are beacons of truth for the rest of us.

Congressman Horn, I am here today on behaf of my son, Anthony, a healthy, well-adjusted 8-year-old boy who happens to be multiracial. Like all proud fathes, I carry around a picture of my son. I'd like to show it to you now.

This was taken a few years ago, when he was dressed-up for a wedding in some sharp-looking, but very uncomfortable shoes.

As you can see, Anthony is not a statistic. He is flesh and blood. Bones and muscles. Intellect and genes. AndI want to remind everyone, regardless of your opinions on the multiracial issue, 50% of my son's genes came from me. That means he is neither "Black" nor "White." He is both. And no one should presume to have the authority to tell him, or me, anything to the contrary.

Regardless of what some would have you believe, race remains essentially a biological construct in our society. When my son was born and the Vital Statistics people wanted to know what race he was, the issue of culture was never mentioned. It did not matter how he was to be raised, or with which social group he might identify in the future, or even what type of music, literature,dance, folklore, etc., he might prefer. It was just about my wife's genes and my genes. So we should keep this debate honest and focused on biological reality, rather than cultural diversions.

Now most of us know that white supremacists, using their insidious "One-Drop Rule," tell us that one drop of "black blood" makes a person "Black." This crazy concept is an anachronism in today's world. Thankfully, we have reached the point in our nation's great history where we must reject the racist "One-Drop Rule," once-and-for-all. Supporting "One-Drop" today is like supporting the flat earth theory. It is irrational and illogical, period. People who continue to uphold the "One-Drop" myth, whatever their stated reasons, are major contributors to lingering racism in America.

Ironically, among those still supporting the "One Drop Myth," and opposing the new multiracial category, are many in the civil rights establishment. I say to these folks, brothers and sisters, this is a civil rights issue, and you are clearly on the wrong side of it. How can you suggest that a group of your fellow human beings, no matter how large or small, must be denied their right to identify accurately, in order to accomodate the status quo? How hypocritical! The violation of multiracials' right to self-determination should ring loud warning bells for every believer in civil rights.

Furthermore, no organization or individual has the moral authority to impose racial patriotism over others. Some of our opponents appear to have commissioned themselves as members of a "racial border patrol." They dutifully stand guard over America's imaginary borders between the races, scanning the horizon for "illegal racial immigrants." And when they see one, they swoop down with all their might and unrighteous indignation. Well, it is sometimes said that, "the truth shall set you free." If our opponents are truly interested in freedom, then why are they afraid of the truth?

I remind every naysayer, be they from private or public sectors, that all previous civil rights legislation was construed to be doing harm to someone, somewhere, somehow. People argued about the loss of presumed freedoms or privileges; or the projected, disastrous financial impact; or insumountable logistical difficulties; or the accompanying social upheaval. However, these were never legitimate reasons for activists to withdraw. Civil rights legislation and complementary court decisions were enacted and implemented because they were morally correct. Ladies and gentlemen, the multiracial identifier is the morally correct thing to do.

We deserve the right to identify accurately. And whatever the consequences of this change, we as a society will just have to cope with them. Yes, there will be many test cases before the courts. And, yes, the whole process will be inconvenient to many. So be it. Multiracials and their supporters have no reason to be ashamed of demanding their true identity. They deserve respect, support, and accommodation in their efforts.

I would also point out that declaring oneself to be multiracial does not mean one will then cease being "Black," "White," "Asian," "Native American," or whatever. "Multiracial" has always been a term of inclusion. If a multiracial person is discrimated against because of one or more of his-or-her racial components, then he-or-she can still claim discrimination based upon race. For instance, if multiracial Tiger Woods were discriminated against because of his "blackness," he could seek redress based upon the "black" genetic component of his racial heritage. No one is suggesting these components will disappear when people declare themselves "multiracial."

In conclusion, our government should stop demanding that multiracials and their parents commit fraud, in order to maintain an erroneous status quo. It is irrational and immoral to ask me as a parent — or my child when he becomes an adult — to choose only one of his racial heritages as a racial indentifier. Exclusively calling my son "African-American" or "Black" is a lie; calling him just "European-American" or "White" is a lie, also. Anthony will be multiracial for as long as he lives. We should respect and acknowledge that fact.

I leave you with an old Chinese saying which is just as relevant today: The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names. i urge you, esteemed members of Congress, add a multiracial category. This issue is not about the mistakes of the past; it is about the creation of a future in which we respect the dignity and well-being of my son and countless other multiracials, including thousands of European-Asian multiracials who do not fit current categories or stereotypes.

Grant Anthony, and all other multiracial children and adults in America, an equal opportunity to accurately identify themselves. Grant them the dignity they deserve. Grant them the freedom to choose.

Thank you.

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