Thursday, May 14, 2009

Are Blacks Politically & Personally Prepared For the Multi-Racial Revolution?

So I've been sitting on this for nearly two months. With the conversations that have taken place the past week or so I feel I'm somewhat better able to articulate my thoughts on this. This is an exploration of ideas versus a set standard of do's and don'ts. There's a political component at stake where we must learn to navigate through another facet of an established infrastructure we may be vehemently opposed to. We may not have figured out how to make it work to our benefit yet. There's a personal component where we may wish to compete but may not be prepared and have to develop a winning strategy. Or we could just be mad about the whole thing. 

Is this the beginning of the end? Some people want separate categorizations for biracial and multiracial children. The ones that can will be folded into the white masses (as they will make accommodations for their dwindling numbers to continue their dominance) while others will be rejected and not allowed to do so.  Is this a reliable scenario for banding together or a consolation prize tactic for retaining certain privileges?
From WAPO: Public schools in the Washington region and elsewhere are abandoning their check-one-box approach to gathering information about race and ethnicity in an effort to develop a more accurate portrait of classrooms transformed by immigration and interracial marriage. Next year, they will begin a separate count of students who are of more than one race.
I see this as a multi-layered scenario. There's genetics, culture, historical acumen, modern strategies and choice. One consideration is about needing to recognize diversity of thought, outlook, experience and birth. Another is about outside attempts at diversionary tactics and divisiveness. Finally there's the internal development we must do to advance. Some don't agree on tactics while others don't think certain efforts need to be made at all. This isn't about setting people apart, denying parentage or putting down some in favor of others. This is about having a reality check. 

Historically we can look at many people who were pioneers of the advancement of colored people who's appearance could've lent them to be viewed as white: Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell, Lena Horne and plenty of others. There may have been less options but they chose to align with the "Black" categorization for the uplift of all.  I wonder how many people with their phenotype would willingly do so today when they could (rightfully) claim everything and the kitchen sink. I can understand why things that took place in the past no longer work today. I can also see where we need to stop playing old scripts. There have always been those who had a vested interest in establishing a hierarchy that they benefitted from (i.e paper bag test). I don't see that trend ending any time soon so we know why that expression about "skin folk not always kin folk" exists. 

There are those whose phenotype lends towards a Black categorization who do not want to be Black. They were taught to have disdain for the parts of their heritage deemed less than. They've continued to do so after the age of consent.  They're not going to be considered "white" under most circumstances when their biracial makeup includes any direct/recent African heritage. 

Since whites are supposedly diminishing numerically they've upped the ante to change the Census for their benefit. (Some) Blacks have always banded together in solidarity for political and social purposes when set in opposition to whites. Intra-racially it was a different story. Those who were seeking advancement for themselves fought to separate themselves from the masses. This practice began during the forced enslavement of Africans. Of course the irony is how whites were fighting for independence while keeping people hostage but that's why we need to really pay attention to our history and see how the few exert power over the masses. 

We need to have our own power tactics in place. The best and brightest want to ensure their survival. They will have laws enacted and other societal traditions that maximize growth. Groups of people who thrive are not allowed to be left to their own individual devices inasmuch as the majority don't do things that threaten the collective.  

Black political power has been divided, short-sighted and focused on short-term goals. Those that declared themselves the "elites" of the bunch used phenotype to deny inclusion of a majority. How were they ever truly allies and why would those belonging outside those groups be able to trust an alliance built of a lie? Individuals have found ways around it, but what of the base? Sometimes it's been more beneficial to work with those outside these groups.  Thomas Jefferson went to great efforts to ensure that his progeny with Sally Hemmings would get the maximum benefits allowed under miscegenation laws and for those whose phenotype lent itself to be considered "white". Why must we still discuss advancing like it was a new concept?

In a related argument you have Blacks with American Indian heritage who are being denied tribal membership so the majority can retain its leverage. Via Racewire:
Does affirming indigenous identity and sovereignty necessitate drawing boundaries? In excluding Blacks from nationhood, are the Cherokee replicating historical injustices they themselves suffered? Should a shared legacy of dispossession encourage unity, even if it means grappling with a historical blight?
There's a personal component at play here, an emotional tie. Then there's looking to the future and taking steps towards advancement. There's a few discussions going on a some blogs that seek to empower Black women about how to navigate that Blackness, what emphasis should be placed on it, how to move out of a narrow definition of it, how to accept all of our different life experiences and accepting our different heritages/legacies/ethnicities. How do you elevate yourself if you're stuck in the past? How do you catch up in the game of life when you didn't know the particular game to begin with? Who are you measuring yourself against? Is feeling frustrated appropriate? 

When you have a large portion of the "Black" population that doesn't know their legacy and full spectrum heritage how does analysis of embracing power tactics really take root without addressing it? Some people may be able to move forward onto the next phase of development but what of the masses? If they've fallen down and the minority decides to leave them do we just say "too bad"? Then why even present it as collective advancement when it's individual. 

Finally, how does one group who may not consider themselves a group work within that group as well as work with those completely outside that group, survive and thrive? Choosing to negotiate between cultures is one thing, having the government fragmenting it is another. I feel as if I may have presented this as a circle with no exit path for the majority. I can't say I believe that will be of benefit to us all, but it may lead to a more productive future. At least I hope so.

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Khadija said...


You know what I think about all of this! LOL!

(1) No, those who still self-identify (for whatever reasons---racial/ancestral loyalty, or lack of any other viable choice, etc.) as "Black" are NOT ready for this.

(2) The situation with the Cherokee Nation, self-proclaimed "Don't you dare call me Black" biracials, and others is a combination and intertwining of 2 motivations:

(a) Self-determination; COUPLED & INTERTWINED WITH(b) self-esteem BASED UPON devaluing and distancing oneself from any "Black" identity (i.e., anti-Black racism).

In the Cherokee & other scenarios, the only "category" that these folks are excluding/running from is Black folks. They're not on an anti-recruitment drive to push Whites out of the Cherokee nation; nor are the "Don't you dare call me Black" "biracials" seeking to distance themselves from Whiteness, or any other non-Black component of their heritage.

In short, modern anti-Black racism is cloaked in the language of choice and self-determination. And most of us are too confused to understand this.

(3) One of your final questions, asked about the fate of "the masses." There are NO masses. The "masses" are not even in solidarity with each other. They are simply an aggregate of people who can't find a viable exit out of Blackness. And yes, they will inevitably be left behind by those Black folks who can effectively navigate these trends. "The masses" are too heavy to carry anywhere. {sigh}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Unknown said...

its a good discussion to have. I encounter more and more people who admit to being biracial then ever before.

I agree that I do encounter a large number of folks whose phenotypes are way closer to black folks who want to remind everyone that they have some "other" ethnic background.

I know quite a few, myself included,whose phenotype can "pass" but choose not to.

It's an ill dynamic.

The only problem I see is that you have folks who want to claim EVERYTHING (you know those "oh i am black, irish, native american, german, swedish, filipino!" ) and from an administrative stand point it would be a monster.

In a sense, it is a learning curve because more and more we realize that our identities cross not just so many ethnic boundaries, but class and nationality as well.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Khadija: I am hoping there are a few people left in the wilderness of an unofficial collective who can be reached out to and "saved". I guess I really loathe the idea of "an aggregate of people who can't find a viable exit out of Blackness" because I wonder what was the struggle for survival from enslavement through Civil Rights for and how could it have failed us so miserably? Maybe I answered my question. It was so that a few could advance while everyone else who couldn't or wouldn't play got left behind. Why does that thought sadden me?

Brother OMi: I really want to talk to your wife one of these days just to make sure you're a real person! You must have stinky breath in the morning or some other flaws we can dissect. Yes, I noticed your phenotype but clearly you've established your identity and who you are in solidarity with. Often it's those who can choose to opt out who don't while the ones who cannot will try their hardest to be separate. We all bring different experiences to the table: class, nationality, gender, orientation. We don't have to be the same but I wonder how people really come together w/o agreeing on some core issues.

Anonymous said...

this was a handful, and i've been thinking about it all day. Actually talked around a similar situation last night about the effects of the world on biracial and multiracial children within the family setting.

But I think this: A biracial person should check what he/she feel he/she is. I don't think there's a need for too many more options.

Thing is, America is going to identify you and place you into a race and class either way: So you have to define who you are, and check the right box.

But yeah, I don't like the watering down of the potential options because that can screw with Affirmative Action ... and people still see color and act on it in this great nation of ours.

And I say still because we will never, and I mean never see the end of racism in this world. It's unrealistic.

Khadija said...


I hear you. I grieved for a long time after I let myself acknowledge what our people have turned into. Many of our leaders were opportunists. Many of them were also simply as equally filled with racial/ethnic self-loathing as "the masses."

I follow what I heard a NOI minister named Ava Muhammad explain as the best strategy: First, help SELF. Then help those who are of our own "kind" [along whatever dimension(s) we use to define our own "kind"]. Finally, if there's something left over, then help others.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

cdwriteme said...

Regading the "lighter-skinned" persons, in a word, "sellouts". Every person of color (even the sellouts) know that white don't look at "half-whites" as white. They may be nicer to them, but they still consider them "the other".

Regarding white people, predictable. They have tried every trick in the book, historically, to maintain domination. This is no different.

And, they will win if we don't stop them. Alot of whites in America could care less if we were all hung or put in jail. In this political climate, however, they have to come at us more subtly.

Take away recording of races you take away the statistics. Take away the statistics, you take away the evidence. Take away the evidence, you have nothing to fight the ever-predictable white denial with. Let the white denial win out and there is no compulsion for civil rights enforcement.

White people may be alot of things, but, they're not dumb. We need to educate each other and the biracials. We need to stay alert.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Thismayconcernyou: I think we all need to check ourselves. A bi-racial/cultural person (that I say is recent) as well as "Black" will carry whatever thoughts and attitudes they have. And they pass them on to their children. And the rot is out there unabated and infecting everyone. We can do something about it though by acknowledging it and hopefully some people will rethink their choices.

cdwriteme: I think you've overstated your position. I've found that many times those of the lightest skin as you refer to can be quite loyal if you will. It's the ones who wouldn't be "recognized" as being different are often the ones who want to be and who let everyone know that they are "not like the others". To me this is more than focusing on whites. It's everybody else jockeying for "2nd place" that are the potential problems unless all the non-white/half-whites/etc decided to band together. Which as long as they can curry favor or be considered white - will not. I want us to be able to operate within the existing structures in a powerful way OR completely get rid of it. But if it's gone what will be put in its place? A hierarchy of "coloured" like in South Africa where "Black" is still the bottom of the barrel? No thanks!!

cdwriteme said...


You misunderstood me, but I see why. I did not put who I was responding to in my previous post. I was responding to the post Khadja made.

The "sellouts" I was referring to are the biracials who, even if whites will never accept them as white, still act like lapdogs and vehemently deny their non-white sides. I absolutely agree with you that being biracial in and of itself says nothing about loyalty, as many of them are champions of social justice.

Furthermore, I completely agree with you about the second place thing. "Some" people of color are to the racial justice movement what whites are to the labor movement. Whites cripple the labor movement for all of us (them included) because they a) can't see beyond skin color and b) fail to understand that they, and all the rest of us, would have more privilege if we cooperated against the economic aristocracy. The "sellouts" cripple the racial justice movement because they take their little special privileges from their white masters, failing to recognize that they and other people of color could have many more gains by working together.

One of the secret ways white are trying to maintain their domination is by suggesting that racial categories be removed from statistics. That would be a nightmare for us. No evidence of the disparities. Anyhoo, I think this should clear up where I stand.

Khadija said...

Cdwriteme said, ""Some" people of color are to the racial justice movement what whites are to the labor movement. Whites cripple the labor movement for all of us (them included) because they a) can't see beyond skin color and b) fail to understand that they, and all the rest of us, would have more privilege if we cooperated against the economic aristocracy. The "sellouts" cripple the racial justice movement because they take their little special privileges from their white masters, failing to recognize that they and other people of color could have many more gains by working together."RESPONSE: Wow. That's an excellent point. As a teenager, I watched working-class, unionized White factory employees in a nearby neighborhood uniformly vote for union-busting Ronald Reagan.

They were die-hard "Reagan Democrats" despite the fact that Pres. Reagan was feverishly working against their economic interests. They continued to support the Republicans. Ultimately, their factories closed and their jobs went overseas.

Apparently, the emotional "feel-good" of standing in opposition to (and OVER) the so-called "special interest groups (translation: Black folks) meant more to them than food on their tables. Such is the power of emotional payoffs. I suspect that the same sort of emotional payoff applies to the "Don't you dare call me Black" biracials, and other people of color.

This is what makes such people impervious to rational, interest-based arguments. Folks caught up in emotional feel-goods have to literally be desperate and at death's door to even consider acting in their own rational interests.

[Being at an economic death's door is the ONLY reason why many non-Blacks voted for Pres. Obama. If they weren't desperately afraid of losing their jobs and their homes, they would've comfortably voted for McCain.]

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

cdwriteme: Thanks for the clarification. I had to hear some foolishness on Twitter yesterday by some who actually want to consider legitimizing white Africans emigrating to the US and referring to themselves as African American. So I'm working on another post addressing this and your points are spot on.

khadija: Here I thought the conversation was winding down and all points had been covered.

Anonymous said...

Exactly why should we care about biracials who do not or don't want to identify as black? They are simply out of the race and can go forge ahead on their own.
The only reason I see concern is to prevent them from getting any benefits from identify as part black whilst denying it?

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Anonymous: I let your comment pass through moderation but I want to make it clear this is about exploring all avenues for forming alliances that are mutually beneficial. Of course those that want to be separate should do so and I agree they shouldn't get to have privileges reserved for certain people under certain circumstances that they would otherwise deny. I want the work on solutions though rather than having unbridled hostility being expressed. Sorry but this aint that kind of party. Besides you'd be alienating potential supporters. I'd like for you to come back with something tangible and constructive to offer.