From the Editor

Lise Funderburg and the Truth about One-Drop

By Charles Michael Byrd
C. Byrd
(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith)

"Hypodescent regarding African ancestry has singly been responsible for more human misery in the United States of America than any other so-called 'ordinary' custom I can think of, with the possible exception of (male) chauvinism."

-- William Javier Nelson describing hypodescent (a.k.a. "the one-drop rule") or the inheritance of only the lowest status racial category of one's ancestors.

I believe in giving credit where it is due, which is why I applaud Lise Funderburg (author of "Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity") for admitting in her 03-26-01 Time Magazine article, "I Am What I Say I Am" -- apropos the Census Bureau's check all that apply scheme that one-drops multiple race checkers into a sole minority category for the purpose of "monitoring civil rights violations and discrimination":

"Sure, the formula is an embrace of the old one-drop rule (one drop of black blood makes you black), but this retrograde remedy is an appropriate answer to backward thinking, and what could be more backward than racism?"
It matters not that I disagree with the overall tone of this passage, particularly the popular notion amongst minority academics and politicians that race matters, that the only way to remedy the historical discrimination of a bogus racial classification scheme is by conserving the same bogus racial classification scheme. Actually, that which is more backward than racism as well as its root cause is a belief in "race" itself. That said, Ms. Funderburg concedes what others have gone to great lengths for lo these many months to deny -- that the Office of Management and Budget's decision to reallocate multiple race checkers to the minority race is a politically-correct application of hypodescent that might well contravene the 1967 Supreme Court decision "Loving vs. Virginia." (See: "Loving" vs. Civil Rights Law by George Winkel.)

In an essay last year entitled "How Race Counts in the 2000 Census," syndicated columnist Clarence Page mocked those who dared utter the words one-drop. Mr. Page offered that OMB's policy attempts to make sure that "no one's victimization by racial discrimination falls through the cracks of the new census counts." What Mr. Page fails to realize or just doesn't want to publicly acknowledge is that individuals of mixed ancestry often face discrimination and ridicule from within so-called minority communities simply because they are mixed and identify as such!

New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt's article "Multiracial Identification Might Affect Programs" includes an excellent example of the feeling of constantly being under the gun to identify in the proper manner:

A University of Michigan study in 1995 found that when 20,000 adolescents of all races were asked about their racial identity, about 7 percent said they were mixed race when asked in an anonymous survey at school. But when asked at home by an interviewer, often with a parent present, only 3.5 percent of the children said they were mixed race.
While check all that apply certainly facilitates the continued flow of government funds based on group identity, it does not go nearly far enough toward eliminating the intense psychological pressures society exerts on mixed children, particularly vis--vis longterm "racial" identity formation and political philosophy. That notwithstanding, educators like IV contributor Kimberly Cooper-Plaszewski will use the new Census data to bolster their arguments for changes in school curriculum to reflect the concerns and needs of mixed-race kids.

I came to the conclusion back when the Census 2000 debate was still raging that we as a nation need to summon the courage to jettison these idiotic "race" and "ethnicity" boxes. They serve only to divide us into racial voting blocs agitating for one kind of political legislation or another, regardless of whether the individuals within those blocs deem themselves part of the group in the first place -- much less whether they agree as to the appropriateness of the proposed policy. As long as these groups continue groveling and fighting over government largesse and attempting to intimidate others into staying within the fold (e.g., the NAACP publicly exhorting people last year to only check the black box!) the ability of Americans to construct a true national identity -- what to speak of a heightened spiritual awareness -- is ripped to shreds.

Until that day arrives, however, we can continue giving credit where it is due, and we should all applaud Lise Funderburg's brave admission with respect to the loathsome presence, still, of one-drop.


Also Please Read:

Separation of Race and State
An alternative to ethnic bean counting
By Deroy Murdock for The National Review

Sense and the Census
Forget bean counting and stick to head counting
From The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

A Fresh Face on Race
By Mike Swift for The Hartford Courant


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