Letters to the Editor

LTE: Infighting Based on Identification

Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2002 20:28:45 -0800 (PST)
From: Akin Jeje
Subject: Letter to the Editor

I occasionally am able to read postings now and then on this site, but one thing that has always disturbed me is what I perceive as the infighting between black-identified and mixed raced individuals. I accept the notion that peoples like the Melungeons, the Loiusiana Creoles, Metis should be free to identify themselves however they choose without being slotted automaticallly into an official `black` category.

However, keep in mind two things: first, the categories, taxonomies and racial codification systems were not created by blacks in America in the first place. The fact that the government perpetuates these systems indicates that they are more satisfied with divide and rule tactics than genuinely interested in cultural diversity for its citizens. Second, the arguments on this site that I have seen made against black identification often confuse cultural classification with RACIAL classification.

A.D Powell and RIchard Miller, who often provide interesting information, are also often guilty of this. African Americans are much more than a `racial` group: they are a distinct cultural group as well, and in that sense anyone who adheres to black American mores, folkways, speech and lifestyle could make a reasonable claim to being African-American, as long as thay also possessed some African-American ancestry, however small.

With that in mind, one could be black in America without possessing that much black ancestry. A notable example would be the NAACP`s late chairman Walter White, who had a completely Nordic phenotype, down to his blond hair and blue eyes. On the other hand, one could choose another cultural identity, like the notable Healy family of the 19th century, who identified more with their father`s Irish ancestry. To a certain extent it`s a matter of choice, but for AMericans of African descent, identifying as black has been a strategic choice borne of the legacy of slavery and enduring discrimination.

Look at it this way- if the U.S had a larger proportion of its population possessing predominantly African descent, the situation would be more like Brazil, where there would be a sharper distinction made between those of mixed blood and predominantly African descent. And I`m here to tell you that it benefits nobody to make that distinction. Look at Cape Coloreds in South Africa, Brazilian mulattoes, the traditional mulatto middle classes of the Caribbean.They benefit little from their mixed ancestry- it`s better if there was an abolition of racial categories and considerations, period. However, people, look at the people who truly benefit from this divide and conquer theatre- they`re already toying back and forth with `Hispanic` as both a racial and/or cultural category when it suits them, as the so-called Hispanic population grows. Remember the mandate of this site, and please try not to infight, resent, hate, slight or disassociate. That goes for everyone- and remember, at bottom, we`re all people.

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