The myths of race and the freedom of multiculturalism

Our identity as Black people has been significantly influenced by
mythical traditions which have shaped our thinking and our lives.

For instance, since I was a young boy I have heard the phrase, “One
drop of Black blood makes you Black”. And it is easy to think of many
other myths with vivid word pictures that support racism Within our own
struggle, like the statement, “If you’re yellow, you’re mellow; if
you’re brown, stick around; if you’re Black, get back.” The idea that
there is some hidden genealogy that validates the existence of a pure
race give credence to degrading terms such as “mulatto,” which compares
human beings to mules.

There was a good reason Black blood myths originated: Slave holders
wanted to insure that anyone with Black ancestry would be enslaved.
Caste systems have long outlived their usefulness and, without a doubt,
most of these little mythical sketches of “house and field Negroes”
remain effective in causing divisions among ourselves and some of our
allied ethnic groups.

Generally, public institutions use six categories to identify groups
of people: African American, Native American, Caucasian, Hispanic,
Asian, and Other. In the past fifty years, we of African descent have
shaped our identity from Negro and Colored, to Black and African
American. If we are diligent, someday all of these categories will

As a matter of fact, like mulatto, all assigned categories are
dehumanizing. They are rudimentary classifications of us as humans,
placed in a box. The fact of the matter is that no two people in this
world are the same. In effect, every human being is a race.

These days we are faced with a challenge of accepting or rejecting
yet another racial category defined as “Multiracial.” As always, these
categories require us, as a nation of people, to racially and
ethnically identify ourselves. These insidious racial groupings affect
all of us in many ways because institutionalized ethnic classifications
involve the distribution of political power and money.

Psychologically, most Black people identify with the Africans
brought to America as slaves and will like myself mark the racial
category “African American.”

However, a “Multiracial” category would certainly be more preferable
to those who want to identify themselves as being of mixed heritage.
Hopefully, the classification “Multiracial” would replace the more
alienated alternative “Other” within the racially defined categories.
At the very least the label “Multiracial” allows seating of a person in
the human generic. Most importantly, a “Multiracial” box provides
people the freedom to choose their identity, one of our basic goals.

None of us has chosen our DNA, but we can choose our culture.
Acknowledgement of our multiracial heritage is not a threat, but an
excellent step in the direction of cosmopolitanism. When people choose
whatever mixture of race that includes African American, they have, at
some level, taken on and identified with our struggle for equality.

Think about the freedom we will experience when we begin to
eliminate blood myths that sustain labels like “half-breed,”
“octoroon,” etc. Now is the appropriate time to give voice to some of
our progressive young African Americans who have embarked onto a
cosmopolitan journey that frequently extends beyond the work place. It
is not unusual to see African Americans moving freely in other ethnic
cultures without loss of their Black identity or cultural roots.

New myths are created by the words we use in reaching out to those
multiracial people who identify us as part of their birthright.
Moreover, we will solidify lasting bonds by placing a direct emphasis
on a global pie and collaboration with other groups. A continuing part
of this strategy of multiracial and multicultural cooperation is based
upon discouraging the “Establishment” in our society from negotiating
separately with the various groups whose grievances relate to historic
discrimination and racism.

Black thought today and positive action tomorrow will determine
whether the concept of cosmopolitanism and the myths surrounding
multiracial identity will become obscure issues in the next millennium.
Hopefully early in the next century, future generations will refer to
the Black leaders of the late nineteen hundreds as those who led the
human family into an era of indelible alliances. A protracted effort of
mutuality will richly reward greater numbers of people, allowing them
to obtain freedom and to live with respect and dignity.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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