The Racial Politics of Mixed Race

The Racial Politics of Mixed Race

Journal of Social Philosophy
Volume 30, Issue 2, Summer 1999
pages 276–294
DOI: 10.1111/0047-2786.00018

Lisa Tessman, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies
Binghamton University, State University of New York

Recently there has been an increasing amount of attention given in academic, political, and popular settings in the United States to the experience and identities of mixed-race or multiracial people.  In the academic realm, there is a growing body of work that can generally be called mix-race racial theory, including, for instance, pieces anthologized in Maria P. P. Root’s 1992 and 1996 volumes Racially Mixed People in America and The Multiracial Experience, and Naomi Zack’s 1995 collection American Mixed Race.  There are also many popular autobiographical pieces about mixed race, several periodicals devoted to mixed-race people, a deluge of talk shows on the subject, and both local and national organizations that serve as support groups or political interest groups for mixed-race people.  Much of the more theoretical work emphasizes the issue of individual rights for mixed-race people—particularly the right to an “accurate” racial identity on forms such as the Census.  An enormous portion of the literature also analyzes the experiences of mixed-race individuals from a sociological or psychological point of view. Frequently the discussion of the rights of mixed-race people in fact draws upon the social scientific research that indicates that such things as the lack of opportunity to identify officially as mixed race or multiracial has detrimental effects on the self-concept, self-esteem, and development of mixed-race people, particularly children…

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