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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/24/09

President Obama and the Mixed Race Mix-up

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Message Hargrove Jones

Today, a young woman in a California audience, stood up and told President Obama that she is mixed-race, and glad that the president is someone she can relate to. Does that mean she cannot relate to her father, or her mother?

As a matter of fact, if her parents shared her point of view, she would not exist.

Confused thinking, like a person with a black parent and a white parent, purporting to need a mixed race person, in order to relate; echos the chaotic ideas of Alice Walker's bi-racial daughter, claiming her mother is jealous because she has a rich white father. As if she cannot conceive of the truth, which is, that it is her mother who is rich; and it is her mother who picked that white man, to be her father. This type of mis-perceiving can only occur, when you deny who you are . . .

If there is any group in America, that should appreciate the humanity of people, apart from race, it should be bi-racial people. But perhaps they are also the people most likely to be inhibited from embracing that idea. While they are blood and bone of both ends of the human color chart, racial terror frightens them into seeking cover under the mantel of their white parent's race, even though they cannot share the racial advantage enjoyed by their white parent, and they may even contribute to diminishing that status for their parent.

This was not so in the not too distant past, when bi-racial children were left to the care and protection of Diasporans. Mariah Carey's European grandmother refused to meet her and her brother and sister, and demanded that Mariah's mother keep her children a secret, from their relatives.

In my family, a prospective white grandmother, came to my relative's home to inspect her newborn bi-racial grandchild, and ordered my family to remove the infant from her property before sunrise, or it would be dead. The girl-mother, who had been raped by her son, was too young to carry this burden, so a more mature couple, hastily packed a few belongings, and set out into the unknown, in order to save the child's life.

Mixed race was never an open issue until lately, and the people talking about it are a new social experience, they are people of African descent who have a relationship with their white relatives. So, is mixed race a biological category, or a social category?

DNA analysis identified Quincy Jones as 50% European, and the other Diasporans tested with him, including Oprah, all have European ancestors, identified through their DNA, except one woman, whose DNA revealed Chinese ancestors. Does that make all of them mixed race, or do you have to be 50% other, or more? Or do you have to have a white parent, who acknowledges you as their child? Or is it enough to be light skinned?

Mixed race, without white parent involvement, has been part and parcel of the Diasporan community for 400 years, which is why those who are a part of this new social experience, and who want to be identified as mixed race or bi-racial, have difficulty distinguishing themselves physically since, large numbers of Diasporans, who are pleased to own their African heritage, look more European than most bi-racial people.

People who are of African descent, but who want to excuse themselves from that designation, are plagued by social concepts like the one drop rule. According to the one drop rule, one drop of African blood makes one African. But it is more than a biological description, it speaks to the historic attitude toward Africans since, the concept is not reciprocal. One drop of European blood, does not a European make. Inferentially, the rule speaks to a racial measure that is qualitative, not quantitative.

The one drop rule represents the idea that African blood is contaminating. And like all contaminates, it defiles what it comes into contact with. In the words of Webster's dictionary, a contaminant "make(s) unfit for use by the introduction of unwholesome or undesirable elements." In America's past, African blood, rendered the resulting person, unfit for inclusion in society. Consequently, people of African decent bonded together, without regard for ethnicity and race, forming a singular identity, based on our descendance from the survivors of the African diaspora, and our shared experience. We are the only people in the history of humanity, in which each and every person, is the descendant of a person, or persons, who survived a life and mind challenging event, the middle passage, that killed or rendered insane, more than half of the people who were subjected to it. 400 years later, we can reasonably claim to represent the concept, survival of the fittest.

Diasporans may call themselves black or African-American, but it is not to reflect a pure bloodline, it is because our African bloodline is the only one that accepted, protected and promoted us. Also, some of us came to recognize that, no matter what we describe our ancestry to be, until we can embrace our Africanness, we are vulnerable to being devalued in our own minds. President Barack Obama is a demonstration of that lesson, learned well.

When we lead with our other-ness, we invite the point of view of whoever hears it. A bi-racial claim, can be given a black response, which I have personally witnessed. And I've heard bi-racial people complain, that their racial identity is not acknowledge, because they don't look white enough.

Generally, the bi-racial claim, is an anxious race disclosure, predicated on the fear that, otherwise, people will think I am one of them. Halle Berry's classmate described that phenomenon when, early in their
acquaintance, "Halle broke out pictures of her parents and explained that they were of different races." Some of her classmates responded by informing her, that she could not possibly be her mother's child.

Most mixed race people, like all people of African descent, wear a symbol in their flesh, that has the same effect as the star of David appended to the Jews during the holocaust. It identifies us with slanderous misrepresentations, and as people who are available for abuse.

In my opinion, the mixed race claim is an effort at exception from a maligned group, and the aggressive inclusion of President Obama, is an attempt to dignify it. Only people of African descent are perpetually saying, that they are something, besides the obvious.

Acknowledgment of racial and ethnic heritage is fine and right, but it should be responsive to a question, or in a meaningful context, not an anxious announcement that begs to escape the many painful experiences that racism provides.

Mixed race claimants should be aware, that whatever you call yourself in America, if you look like you are of African descent, you will be treated like you are of African descent. But it's everyone's right to be called whatever suits them, and the woman in the audience, obviously wants to be called mixed race, but President Barack Obama is, a self-described African American. She should have given him, the same respect, that she wants for herself.

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Student of social dynamics, especially as it relates to issues of race and sex.
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