Kweisi Mfume:
Perpetuating white "racial purity?"

By Charles Michael Byrd

"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."

Mixed-race philosopher and author Naomi Zack's words come to mind whenever I read news accounts such as the one concerning former Congressman Kweisi Mfume's February 17 ratification by the NAACP's board of directors as that group's new president. Mfume said the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is "big enough, bad enough and broad enough" to deal with a conservative Congress supposedly hostile to the group's programs, staggering debt, plummeting membership and a growing feeling in the black community that the organization is essentially irrelevant. He called for reaching out to young blacks and members of other ethnic groups, including Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and Jews. He did not, however, advocate reaching out to members of the mixed-race community.

I remember Professor Zack's sentiments, too, as I recall remarks attributed to anonymous black politicians in the January 1996 issue of Emerge magazine that included an article on the push for a multiracial 2000 Census category: "Privately, some Black leaders contend the multiracial families pushing this movement are pawns for racists, whose real goal is to eliminate racial categories altogether, pushing the nation toward this delusion of a colorblind society. Such a move towards this fraud would dissolve the safeguards the government constructed to promote equal opportunities for Blacks."

For the record, no empirical data exists forecasting adverse consequences for any African-American as a result of mixed-race individuals being allowed to legally self-identify on Census, hospital and school forms that request racial/ethnic data; any statement to the contrary is a Big Lie. It's worth noting, too, that black leaders think nothing of trampling in goose-step fashion on multiracial rights to preserve those of their own they view as "threatened."

A more fundamental issue, however, comes into play, and that is the perpetuation of the mythical notion of white racial purity and of white racial supremacy -- which is really what racial categories signify anyway. Through their tenacious adherence to hypodescent, the inheritance of only the lowest status racial category of one's ancestors, a.k.a. the infamous "one-drop rule," black leaders have embraced one of the most vicious aspects of American racism and -- because it furthers their collective political agenda -- have deemed its continuance imperative. Ergo, they have forfeited all claims to the civil rights moral high-ground established by Martin Luther King, Jr., and they are no less racist than any Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Contemporary advocacy of a mixed-race identifier is the largest and most meaningful assault on the concept of white racial purity to come down the pike in many moons. Consequently, the group most able to help this society bridge the gap between the race-obsessed present and an ideal future of racelessness is the mixed-race contingent.

Let us see if Mr. Mfume, who marched with Louis Farrakhan last October, is willing to break the pattern of black support for the concept of white racial purity by dropping his organization's steadfast opposition to the multiracial initiative. Anything less necessarily brands him a Jim Crowesque pretender to the throne of spiritual, moral and "racial" leadership.


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