From the Editor

Baruch Spinoza and the Multiracial Mindset

By Charles Michael Byrd

(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith)

Spinoza was only eight when he witnessed a scene that spurred him to philosophical speculation. It was at the Amsterdam synagogue. The members of the congregation were trampling over a man who was lying across the threshold.

"What is this man's name?" Spinoza asked his father.

"Uriel Acosta."

"What did he do to deserve this punishment?"

"He is a freethinker, Baruch." And then his father explained how Acosta had been expelled from the Jewish congregation because he had questioned their religion; and how the members of the congregation were now "stamping" the sins out of him before his readmission into the synagogue.

Little Spinoza went home in a thoughtful mood. That afternoon, as he was playing in the street, he tried to express his sympathy for the victim; but one of his playmates struck him in the face.

The next day, the Acosta tragedy came to a head. Unable to endure his public disgrace, the young freethinker shot himself to death.

A strange world of foolish people, thought little Spinoza. Everybody was trying to hurt everybody else, it seemed. Baruch was wise beyond his years. Along with the rest of his family, he had been driven out of Spain because the Christians hated the Jews. And now the Spinozas lived in Holland where the Jews hated their own kind. What was the meaning of all this? "When I grow up," he said to his father, "I'll try to find a way to stop people from hating one another."

(Blockquotes excerpted from "Understanding The Great Philosophers" -- Henry Thomas, Ph.D., Doubleday & Co., Inc.)

When you think about it, some things have changed precious little since the seventeenth century, though America's "racial" elders don't stamp, expel or excommunicate freethinkers -- with the noteworthy exception of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, that is. As a rule, we simply pick our behinds up off the pews and head for the doors. That's when the choir launches into an aria of ridicule and scorn -- from page 301 of your hymnals, brothers and sisters! -- aimed at the accursed traitors to the glorious memory of Mother Africa.

In 1656, the elders of the same Amsterdam synagogue that had excommunicated Acosta sixteen years earlier did the same to twenty-four year-old Baruch Spinoza. They had previously offered Baruch five hundred dollars a year to keep quiet about his unorthodox religious and spiritual views. The elders wanted him not to teach them wisdom but to hold his tongue. Spinoza refused, stating that he was content to live with an empty pocket and a free soul.

Spinoza listened to this excommunication and felt no rancor against his persecutors. "It is my business not to criticize, to execrate, or to condemn," he wrote, "but to understand." He realized that the elders of the synagogue believed themselves desperately in the right. For the Jews, tormented on every side, found their only stronghold in their faith. They believed that any attack against this stronghold threatened the very existence of their people. Hence they looked upon Spinoza as a traitor. They were anxious to prove to the entire world that they were a people united in their determination to survive. Spinoza threatened their survival, as they thought, and therefore he must be expelled from the community of the Jews.

But Spinoza felt equally convinced of his own right. He saw the world "under the aspect of eternity," while his judges saw it only under the aspect of the moment. He decided to stay in Amsterdam, alone with his thoughts and his books -- a stranger among his people but "a constant companion of God."

What specifically had Spinoza done to warrant excommunication? Simply, he came to understand there was a higher purpose to his existence on this planet than being a loyal and obedient Jew. He declared: "The different religions divide people, but it is my desire to unite them."

Similarly, many individuals who can claim varying degrees of African heritage have concluded there is a higher purpose to our existence on this planet than being loyal and obedient "blacks." It is our desire -- yea, even our responsibility, particularly in light of the pronounced failure of William Jefferson Clinton's "race" commission, a panel the President designed and assembled solely to validate, to rubber-stamp his limited personal interpretation of the "race" issue -- as self-determined, self-identified multiracial individuals to lead society beyond "racial" divisions. Our unique life experiences as individuals who have, time and again, positioned ourselves on either side of the color line, qualify us to shepherd this civilization toward an understanding that we are not here to build and perpetuate "racial" political empires with which to control the lives of others. Instead, we are all on this planet to consciously evolve, to awaken to a higher destiny. To remember the future.

As one character in James Redfield's "The Celestine Prophecy" declares: "At some level, you knew that life's meaning was connected to the problem of transcending our past conditioning and moving our lives forward." Accordingly, my basic life question is simple: How do I evolve spiritually so that I transcend the construct of "race" in my own life and help society do the same?

"Leaders" of the traditional civil rights organizations and other interest groups -- including some of those purporting to serve multiracial or multiethnic interests -- confuse love for the so-called "races" with that level of affinity more appropriate for the life-force of the universe. (Verily, one could ascribe this confusion to far too many people regardless of "racial" affiliation.) These souls are experiencing dreadful difficulty transcending their past "racial" conditioning -- due largely to their fear of change, their fear of losing the crutch of past suffering -- and they see this country only under the aspect of the moment. We, however, view the world and the universe under the aspect of eternity, and we do not envisage Earth divided in perpetuum in a pathetic battle for "racial" supremacy. The "longer now" we see is something the others cannot presently imagine.

In October 1996, radio and television talk-show host Tony Brown asked me what the difference was between self-identified "blacks" and those of us who opt for multiracial, since -- to repeat the one-drop mantra -- most "blacks" are mixed anyway. Notwithstanding that not all mixed-race persons are of the "black"/"white" combination, the fundamental difference, then and now, is the mindset.

One aspect of this different mindset is the refusal to see ourselves as part this, that and the other; rather, our focus is on the integral being, the world citizen. Mr. Brown, for example, refers to himself, culturally, as "an Americanized African." He speaks of "black" culture in America as derived from "our African experience modified by our American experience." Note the emphasis (read: eagerness?) to articulate space, distance, a separation between "blackness" or "Africanness" on one hand and "whiteness" "Europeanness" and even "Americanness" on the other. Note, too, the emphasis on maintaining loyalty to a geographical landmass, the African continent, upon which most African-Americans have never stepped foot -- nor will they ever. Contrariwise, we eschew this nonsense that we should, somehow, keep the various "races" or "ethnicities" separate within us -- especially so government demographers can assemble their rich racial data. We emphasize the blend. (Try selling your kid on the idea that his green Crayola is really a blue crayon modified by the yellow experience and that he should always bear that in mind. I guarantee he will look at you as if you've gone stark raving mad.)

A thinking person also rejects the hackneyed, politically-correct cliché about mixed-race folk "building bridges" between the various "races." As "races" don't exist to begin with, these bridges merely wind their way into oblivion.

A second facet of the multiracial mindset is the refusal to let others cram their separatist political agendas down our throats, and isn't that really what the religion of "monorace" has degenerated to as we approach the new millennium -- naked political ideologies based on keeping "headcounts" as artificially high as possible so that funding streams for government dollars remain unobstructed?

And yet there is a heartening phase to Spinoza's philosophy. Our destiny, he declares, is greater than we think. Each of us, though a small part of God, is an equally important part. Under the eternal aspect of existence, there is no such thing as smaller or greater. Our present life, as the Spinozist Walt Whitman has observed, is but a stage in our ultimate development. All of us -- from the vagabond in the gutter to the king on his throne -- are interrelated pupils in the classroom of eternity. At this moment we happen to be in different grades, depending upon our present mental and spiritual development. All of us are taught in accordance with our capacity to learn. But in the long run, whatever our grade or degree of knowledge at this stage of our learning, every one of us will reach the senior class of the elect.

Ideally, the multiracial mindset does not subdivide into "black" and "white" multiracials (why impose upon the mixed-race community the same ruinous dichotomy that tortures the remainder of the population) or even multiracials "of color," (show me one human who doesn't have color) though we must recognize that many of us are at varying degrees of personal evolution on this issue.

A consideration of multiracialism symbolizes an intermediate point between our society's "race"-obsessed present and the ideal future of racelessness. Critics of this philosophy scream: "But you're using the same racial terminology, so you're a hypocrite!" The answer to these people is that before they even became aware of the "multiracial movement" they, in all probability, did nothing themselves to deconstruct "race" or the notion of "racial purity" -- "white" or "black" -- on even the modest of scales. Who are the true hypocrites, and where is their new non-"racial" lexicon?

Deconstructing "race" is the only legitimate method to eliminate "racism," "race" hatred and "race"-based violence. In July of this year, the Office of Drug Control Policy launched a $195-million-a-year campaign to create and run ads on television, radio and movie screens, in newspapers and magazines and on the Internet to fight illegal drug use by young people. Now, it's hard to oppose even this umpteenth effort to show someone what their brain looks like on drugs: a scrambled egg, remember? Why can't our government -- or more likely a private consortium -- spend a similar amount of dinero deconstructing "race"? (By deconstructing "race," I'm not speaking of the mass-miscegenation technique proposed by Warren Beatty in his movie "Bulworth," though that idea rates honorable mention.) It could run ads with sports & entertainment celebrities and anthropologists delivering the message to Americans of all ages that "race" is a bogus idea. I've said it before, and I'll say it as long as I draw breath. When people fully understand that they have predicated their hatred and bigotry upon a false notion, that hatred and bigotry will necessarily begin to dissipate. It will have no choice!

The sinister aspect of the government's "check all that apply" scheme is that it reinforces the myth that separate, distinct "races" exist. It does this not only at the level of the decennial Census but also at other federal, state and local agencies, schools, hospitals, etc., that require "racial" identification. Whereas the "check all that apply" scheme legitimizes the fraud, some form of multiracial identifier would have represented a blurring of the boundaries between these categories that serve to separate the American populace. As mixed-race author Naomi Zack says: "Mixed-race identity is the end of race, the hard way. Race presupposes racial purity. That's why mixed-race is resisted so strongly. It's the ultimate undoing of the whole paradigm because it leads to too many races to have workable categories." My friends, once this "check all that apply" scheme is firmly in place, it will be nearly impossible for us to uproot it.

Methinks the counter-game is afoot, though, and we could see governmental powers-that-be substitute "ethnic" classifications for the current "racial" scheme. Thus, they could crow: "See? We scrapped the race boxes!" Don't buy the hype. Any system of categorization necessarily segregates us and emphasizes proposed and perceived differences. It purposely ignores commonality, laying the groundwork, instead, for the introduction of that ill-conceived, ill-understood abstraction we know as diversity. Vandon E. Jenerette III speaks masterfully to this issue in "Census 2000 Protest: Check American Indian!" as does Raymond Rodriguez in his LatinoLink essay, "Census Should Eliminate Race, Ethnic Categories." If there is no provision for those whom society construes to be of mixed-ethnicity, yet who choose to self-identify other than as some combination of segregated "ethnic" boxes, then it's the same scam using an alias. As radical as it sounds, why can't we just be Americans? Anyone for humans? I suppose we're just not ready to "go there," huh?

On one occasion he was almost lynched by an infuriated mob. He had received an invitation for a philosophical chat with Prince de Condé, who had invaded Holland at the time. On his way home from the camp, Spinoza was assailed with stones and angry shouts: "Renegade!" "Atheist!" "Traitor!" He had a hard time convincing the mob that he was merely a philosopher and not a spy. The conflicts of men had no greater concern for him than the battles of spiders. He was not a nationalist; he subscribed only to the international brotherhood of free and fearless men.

The multiracial mindset opposes any coerced connection to the political color continuum and the curse of binary thinking that permits the afflicted to behold only a protracted global war between "white" and "black" or "white" and "of color." Multirace is safe-space, a sanctuary created by those of us who have consciously decided to step out of and a good distance away from the continuum. This safe haven is where we catch our breaths, lick our wounds and allow our scars to heal. We foster a sense of community between ourselves and welcome others who also grow weary of the constant combat to join us -- if they desire.

Ultimately, a majority of color continuum combatants -- of all hues and backgrounds -- will become consciously aware of the mindlessness of the bloody conflict and lay down their weapons to join us. At that point, we will have thoroughly repudiated the construct of "race," and we will have shown the abject stupidity of categorizing humans into mutually exclusive "racial" and "ethnic" categories to be the scam it really is.

Professional "race" merchants who prefer we remain forever silent about the scam -- who, I am thoroughly convinced, are not seriously interested in eliminating racism as that development would take out their political power base -- now insinuate that some of us within the multiracial movement are fronting for right-wing political interests. Not surprisingly, the chief accuser is former NAACP Washington Bureau Director, Harold A. McDougall who used the National Multicultural Institute's "Multiracial Identities & The 2000 Census" forum, aired by C-Span in May of this year, to throw mud not only at multiracial self-identification but at interracial romance and marriage as well. (You'll recall from a previous "From the Editor" that Mr. McDougall -- rapidly emerging as the "civil-rights" community's counterpart to "independent" Democratic Party spinmeister/attack dog James Carville -- was also the NAACP's designated pointman during last year's Census 2000 Multiracial initiative.)

Mr. McDougall referred to those of us who have established websites pertinent to the issue of mixed-race identity, those of us who were unfeigned category supporters during last year's debate, those of us whom some in the media and certain ivory-tower elitists have derisively deemed activists, as the "extreme right-wing of the multiracial movement." So, if we're the extreme right-wing, Harold, who constitutes the regular right-wing? Since any speculation of a right-wing usually implies the existence of its leftist socialist antithesis (to slip ever so fleetingly into Harold's binary thought process, a barely conscious mindset unable to fathom a libertarian/centrist posture), which individuals and organizations, pray tell, comprise that motley crew, and will they publicly own up to that designation? Hmmmm?

My friends, this boils down to one thing: affirmative action. The knee-jerk, dimwitted response by "civil-rights" leaders to the multiracial initiative has always been that it is a right-wing ploy to dismantle affirmative action. In any public forum, these talking-heads begin the discussion with one of their pet set-up topics -- like "black" men not being able to hail cabs in midtown Manhattan or "white" cabbies not being willing to take them uptown to Harlem -- as proof that "white" racism is still pervasive. As fast as you can say Jackie Robinson Parkway, though, they seque into a discussion of affirmative action and denigrate anyone who doesn't fall into unconscious lock-step with their rigid party-line as a "right-winger." Guaranteed! (Folks, you can find "black" cabbies who don't want to drive through parts of Harlem, East New York, South Jamaica and other sections of the Big Apple. Does that make them Uncle Tom racists or merely concerned for their personal well-being?)

For the record, let me share with you my views on the matter. A New York Times/CBS News Poll from December 1997 asked 1,258 adults this question: What is the best thing to do with affirmative action programs giving preference to some minorities? 43% responded -- Change them; 25% responded -- Do away with them; 24% responded -- Leave them as they are; 8% responded -- Don't know. I stand with the 43% group.

The poll also asked this question: Suppose affirmative action programs to help minorities and women were ended and new programs were created to help poor people. Should preference be given to people from poor families? 53% responded -- Yes; 37% responded -- No; 11% responded -- Don't know. I stand with the 53% group.

If the government must continue a program of outreach to those who need help, shouldn't America's poor -- whether poor "blacks," poor "whites," poor Natives, poor Hispanics, poor Asians, poor females or even poor multiracials -- be the primary beneficiaries of that assistance? Since "blacks" make up a disproportionate share of the country's needy, it boggles the mind that "black" politicos stand firm in supporting what amounts to class warfare within the "black"-identified community. Seemingly, they wish to aid only the "black" middle-class and above. Damn the burgeoning underclass! Yet they have the unmitigated gall to cast aspersions upon the motives of those of us in the "extreme right-wing of the multiracial movement." What sanctimonious frauds they are!

A rebuttal to Harold and others within the "civil-rights" community attempting to portray Interracial Voice, our regular contributors and our sister websites as fronts for a right-wing agenda is in order. Let's see who is in political bed with whom, shall we?

  • It is no secret that Marcus Mosiah Garvey, best known as the founder of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and as chief proponent of the "Back to Africa" movement in the early twentieth century, inspired many of the leaders of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We can also consider Garvey the progenitor of what is unquestionably the dominant sociopolitical mindset within America's "black" community today: nationalist-separatism.

    Garvey's 1920 Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World contained a bill of rights that proclaimed the equality of the "black" race and included resolutions for creating independent legal and educational systems. While no one can deny that deplorable working and living conditions of "blacks" around the world inspired Garvey to begin a one-man campaign to raise their status, he steeped his solution to these problems in advancing radical "black" power, "black" nationalism and "black" racial purity as appropriate counterweights to the prevailing "white" power structure. In 1921, Garvey went so far as to meet with the acting Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and said the UNIA and the KKK shared a similar policy of "racial" separation.

  • It is no secret that the mainstream civil rights movement in the 1960s never embraced racial intermarriage. In Judith Miller's 05-23-98 New York Times article, "Banishing Racial Strife on the Wings of Love," Taylor Branch, a biographer of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., makes the point that racial mixing in the United States has remained a distinctly unpopular phenomenon among "blacks" as well as "whites."

    "Since some whites argued that the call for equal rights was simply an insidious way in which black men could get to 'our white women,' the civil rights movement knew the issue would have been a hand grenade," says Branch. The notion that members of all minorities wanted to be and act white, he said, was one reason why the 1963 March on Washington was such a "media misperception." That, in turn, fueled the Black Power movement, whose proponents feared the eradication of "black" culture.

    Rather than advocating the disappearance of "race," King favored the "quilt" rather than "melting pot" model, Mr. Branch said. "He invited polyglot Americans to join hands and sing the old Negro spirituals." King argued that race should be treated like international travel, Mr. Branch said, adding: "No one says we should fear going to Italy until Americans intermarry with Italians."

  • It is no secret that "white" supremacists wildly applauded the success of Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. According to Joseph J. Levin Jr. in his Southern Poverty Law Center article, "Farrakhan: A Long History of Hate," White Aryan Resistance (WAR) leader Tom Metzger -- a certified racist and a dangerous human being -- pointed to the successfulness of the March and proclaimed 1995 "a banner year for racial separatists."

    The SPLC piece also quotes William Pierce, the head of the largest neo-Nazi organization in the nation, the National Alliance. Pierce emphasizes that "both the Nation of Islam and the Alliance are racial-nationalist organizations, that both believe that the races must be geographically separated, and that both face a common enemy in the Jew."

    It is also worth remembering that many of the "Big Guns" of the "civil-rights" community, including Jesse Jackson and current NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, eagerly accepted Farrakhan's invitation to speak at his D.C. shindig.

  • It is not unreasonable, therefore, to posit that contemporary "black" political "leaders" and "white" supremacists share a common philosophical agenda not unlike that expressed by Marcus Garvey and the KKK of his day -- the permanent separation of the so-called "races." "Black" opposition to any multiracial designation upholds not only the idiotic concept of "white" racial purity but also its "black" opposite number. Garvey would surely be proud of his latter-day disciples.

So, the next time a slick-talking, collectivist, one-drop zealot gets in your face and accuses you of fronting for the political right -- because you self-identify as other than "black" -- merely smile and repeat to him what you've just read ;-)

(On the cusp of the twenty-first century, isn't it fascinating that the only form of state-sanctioned racism remaining in the United States of America is the one-drop rule? What "white" slavemasters created so they could have more slaves, our elected representatives from President William Jefferson Clinton on down perpetuate, at the dictate of the "civil-rights" community, so the count of official "black" folk remains as high as possible. Mull that one over this evening while you eat your supper, won't you?)

When Spinoza gave his philosophy to the world, he was assailed in orthodox circles as "the most impious atheist that ever lived."

The mixed-race dialogue exposes "black" and "white" and the other official pigeonholes for what they are: second-tier political appellations and nothing more! It is my fervent desire that the discussion also serves as a wake-up call to the community of "black"-identified Americans in particular, as they have nearly completely lost sight of their individuality, allowing it to be subjugated for the greater good of a monolithic, Marxist/Leninist-based "commune of color." Sadly, they lack the realistic view of what's happening when you're in the center of a hurricane, and it would do them a world of good to also realize there is a higher calling in their individual lives than being loyal and obedient "blacks."

Spinoza died of tuberculosis at the age of forty-four on a Sunday afternoon (February 29, 1677). The only other person present was his physician. Earlier he had written: "A free man thinks of nothing less than of death; and his wisdom is a meditation not on death, but on life."

A "racial" freethinker can't help visualizing a vertical ascent in the illumined mindset of the masses from considerations of "monorace" to "multirace" (beyond meditations on "ethnicity" and "culture" as well) to humanity up to pure consciousness and energy in the spiritual realm.

The basic stuff of the universe is pure energy, malleable to human intention and expectation. Our expectations themselves cause our energy to flow out into the world and affect other energy systems, other individuals.

My friends, if we can change our consciousness, and if the world is made of the same stuff as our minds, then we can change the world. Baruch Spinoza might ask us what we are waiting for!

PASS IT ON, Starchild.

Also please read:


©2001 all rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited without
the express written consent of Interracial Voice.