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I need to spend some more time digging into this piece, which was e-mailed to me this morning, but did anyone else catch John Cloud’s article on mixed-race children in Time?

Americans like answers in black and white, a cultural trait we confirmed last year when the biracial man running for President was routinely called “black”.

The flattening of Barack Obama’s complex racial background shouldn’t have been surprising. Many multiracial historical figures in the U.S. have been reduced (or have reduced themselves) to a single aspect of their racial identities: Booker T. Washington, Tina Turner, and Greg Louganis are three examples. This phenomenon isn’t entirely pernicious; it is at least partly rooted in our concern that growing up with a fractured identity is hard on kids. The psychologist J.D. Teicher summarized this view in a 1968 paper: “Although the burden of the Negro child is recognized as a heavy one, that of the Negro-White child is seen to be even heavier.”

But new research says this old, problematized view of multiracial identity is outdated. In fact, a new paper in the Journal of Social Issues shows that multiracial adolescents who identify proudly as multiracial fare as well as — and, in many cases, better than — kids who identify with a single group, even if that group is considered high-status (like, say, Asians or whites). This finding was surprising because psychologists have argued for years that mixed-race kids will be better adjusted if they pick a single race as their own. Read more…

Okay, off the bat, I’m a little irked at the writer’s “flattening” of the complex racial background of African Americans, which he achieves right in the second paragraph by mentioning Tina Turner and Booker T. Washington’s mixed heritage withough acknowleging how common it is among black Americans, particularly of Turner and Washington’s respective eras. A lot of America’s racial pathology, including the “one drop” rule began with slavery. It’s hard to address the issue of mixed-race Americans today, while continuing to deny part of the country’s history of race mixing.

If the author counts Turner, born to two black parents, but with some European and suspected Native American heritage, as mixed race, then, he must count a great proportion of African Americans as mixed race, and I doubt that is so. Also, I doubt Turner and Washington were identified as black because of concern for their well-being as mixed-race children. They were identified as black because they were born at a time when the “one-drop rule” was vigilantly enforced to maintain white racial purity and privilege. I may be making too much of this, but it bugs that this article about race, starts off by demonstrating a lack of understanding of racial history.

Anyhoo…what do you think of the new study published in the Journal of Social Issues?

 

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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