Responsible Mixed Race Politics

Responsible Mixed Race Politics

How do identities matter?
Stanford University

Presentation by:

Ronald Sundstrom, Associate Professor of African American Studies
University of San Francisco

The harshest critics of mixed-race have claimed that the identity is self-indulgent and irresponsible, because it evades or, worse, is complicit in racism. Such strident condemnations of mixed-race identity are dogmatic and uncharitable. In “Being & Being Mixed Race,” I argued that mixed-race is a real social identity and that it need not be morally illegitimate. In this essay I return to the topic of the relationship between mixed-race identity and politics and the dynamics of racism. There are disturbing trends in mixed-race literature and organizations that precisely are irresponsible in the way critics of the mixed-race movement have asserted. I criticize these developments, and counter that mixed-race individuals and groups have a special obligation to resist racism and to refuse the “wages of whiteness” that accrue from their mixed-race status. Although all persons have a moral obligation to reject and resist racism, mixed-race individuals and groups have special obligations that are based on their own experience of race and racism, and their place in the history and experience of race and racism in America. Just as mixed-race persons argue that they are morally obligated to remember and affirm their complex family histories-to not forget their mothers-they have an equal obligation to remember the significance of their personal history in the history of race in America: we have an equal obligation to the memories of our grandmothers.

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