Interracial-Voice
Speech

Charles Michael Byrd
Multiracial Solidarity March II, August 9, 1997.

Before his speech at MSM II, Interracial Voice's Editor/Publisher was presented with the 1997 Racial Harmony Hall Of Fame Award by Steve and Ruth White of A Place For Us/National -- America's largest multiracial organization.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, thank you all for coming today. Let me also thank Steve and Ruth White of "A Place For Us" for coordinating this year's event. In fact, let's have a round of applause for Steve and Ruth.

I dedicate my remarks today to the memory of Anatole Broyard -- may he forever rest in peace.

This is my first ever trip to the City of the Angels, and I can think of no better setting than a celebration of multiraciality -- itself synonymous with humanity. That's what we're really talking about isn't it? There is no "race" except the human race, and those of us whom society construes to be of "mixed-race" should recognize that we are uniquely qualified to demonstrate this to the rest of the nation and to the world. It has long been my opinion that we have a terrific opportunity and an obligation to lead the way out of the racial wilderness in which America has been lost too long. We need to invite others to join us on a higher plane, a level above the insanity of the race game, above the seemingly endless madness of the political color continuum.

For me, one exciting aspect of the push for a multiracial census category was allowing America to discuss its last great taboo. Many thought that interracial dating & marriage was this country's last great taboo and that the 1967 Supreme Court decision outlawing America's remaining anti-miscegenation laws resolved that problem. They were wrong.

While interracial couples won the right to legally marry, their offspring are still waiting for the right to legally self-identify, to name self, to not have a particular political group -- more concerned with perpetuating its status as permanent victim -- or the larger society impose an identity upon them. Unfortunately, in the case of mixed-race individuals who are part black, the one-drop rule still mandates that we are all black, and that no other identity can ever be possible in our lives.

All along, there were two main reasons why I advocated for a multiracial census category, and neither involved establishing yet another special-interest group looking for its own set of entitlement programs or its own protected status.

1-) Otherwise self-determined individuals should have the ability to self-identify, since Census forms are supposed to be based upon self-identification. There's so much at stake here that goes to the heart of one's self-esteem and to one's basic right to free association. Though there is no factual foundation for race, racial pressures of all kinds -- particularly where people have to choose one part of their heritage and deny the other -- are harmful to psychological health, especially for children.

2-) Mixed-race is a repudiation of the notion of racial purity. This discussion of racial identity is already blowing the lid off most people's perceptions of race, and that's good. Eventually, we should scrap all racial classifications. Until that day comes, a multiracial category would be a good first step along the way to "racial" sanity.

Accordingly, for some of us, the "check-all-that-apply" scheme proposed by the government simply is not good enough. Not only is there no consideration or understanding that some of us do not recognize the existing racial groups as valid in terms of identity and affiliation, there is no symbol or icon -- specifically a multiracial header -- representative of a self-determined, integral being who self-identifies other than monoracially.

We therefore challenge the President of the United States to do the right thing, to keep his word from April of 1995 when he said he saw no reason not to establish a multiracial identifier. We also need to inform the President that his great campaign of racial reconciliation through dialogue is doomed to failure if he lacks the guts to stand up and tell his fellow Americans what a great many don't want to hear -- "race" is not a biological reality at all. It is nothing more than a social, cultural and political invention. It doesn't exist. Only when our leaders have the courage to utter these words can we hope for an end to racism, because when people fully understand that their hatred and bigotry are predicated upon a false notion, then that hatred and bigotry will necessarily begin to dissipate. They will have no choice.

My friends, today we should vow to repudiate neo-Jim Crowism/neo-segregation, no matter who preaches and practices it, no matter what their color. At its recently concluded national convention in Pittsburgh, the NAACP made news by actually considering endorsing a return to segregated education for black kids. Amazingly, as we approach the new millennium, this once great civil rights organization seems to be suggesting that maybe separate but equal wasn't so bad after all!

The concept of separate but equal is problematic at best for someone of mixed-race, though, since as blended individuals, we cannot be separated. We are the living, breathing antithesis of white segregationist and black separatist philosophies, and as I've often written -- "No principled multiracial can endorse separate but equal."

Opponents of the multiracial initiative from the traditional civil rights organizations are fond of predicting that we as multiracial individuals will inevitably be discriminated against and that we will need their legal protection. Not only does this smack of a protection racket where you are offered protection whether you ask for it or not, this is an incredibly negative postulate to present to our children. My friend William Javier Nelson refers to this as "The Inevitability of White Racism Syndrome," and it holds that whites always have, do now and will forever lack the ability, lack the inner control to see someone's color and not make a negative value judgment based upon it. While I am aware that both white and black racism still exist, I insist that my right to self-identify more than outweighs the ability to exhort the NAACP to defend me or others in imagined instances of future discrimination.

At a hearing in Washington, D.C. on July 25 in which he gave testimony on behalf of his organization concerning the Office of Management and Budget's recommendation that no multiracial category be added for Census 2000, NAACP Washington bureau chief Harold McDougall said:

We know that a small minority of advocates from the community of persons of multiple racial backgrounds continue to advocate for a multiracial category. However, this is not the position of the larger groups, such as the Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans and the Hapa organization, both membership organizations with a broad base. Since our testimony before the Committee in May, we have had very good and productive discussions with these, the most broad-based organizations in the multiracial community, and reached agreement that the "select one or more" option best suits all our purposes.
I must correct Harold on a couple of points. "A Place For Us/National" is America's largest support/advocacy group for our community. That group, along with Project Race and Interracial Voice with its global readership, decided to take a principled stand in favor of a separate multiracial category -- with a check all that apply section below it -- and decided not to align ourselves with the NAACP, an organization whose commitment to a future of racelessness through assimilation into the American mainstream is exceedingly suspect.

What this political alignment versus non-alignment demonstrates is that the multiracial community is no different from any other in that we have differing and competing philosophies. Some of us are content with identity-politics as usual, and others of us are ready for bold moves that challenge convention. Some view the multiracial community as merely another "minority" group permanently situated on the "black" side of the "black/white" political color continuum, and others regard a multiracial identifier as one to which the vast majority of Americans could eventually drift, effectively neutralizing the concept of race.

Before closing, ladies and gentleman, allow me to remind you of the eight goals of last year's rally in Washington, D.C. -- the first Multiracial Solidarity March. They were:

1-) To petition the government to establish a multiracial category for the 2000 Census, giving mixed-race individuals the currently denied right to legally self-identify.

2-) To show the country that multiracial individuals aren't mere abstract considerations but "flesh and blood" humans who are not sickly mutants born of "savage couplings." Prior to last July's rally, I had been reminded that in one of David Duke's essays he referred to us as "harbingers of the Apocalypse." I would again say to the former Klansman that mixed-race folk *are indeed* forerunners but of the sort that will lead this country away from its race-obsessed present to an ideal future of race-less-ness in which his kind are considered persona non grata.

3-) To allow those individuals who've had to previously choose one side of their racial/ethnic heritage at the expense of the other to both publicly and proudly affirm their multiraciality, to allow them to see they no longer have to choose and deny to satisfy a particular political agenda.

4-) To unmask hypodescent -- the inheritance of only the lowest status racial category of one's ancestors, a.k.a. the infamous "one-drop rule," -- for what it is: one of the most vicious aspects of American racism.

5-) To spur the creation of an alliance between all multiracial & multiethnic individuals, not just black/white but hapas, mestizos, metis, creoles, latinos, and all the rest.

6-) To allow interracially involved monoracials to publicly affirm that their offspring should have the inalienable right to legally recognize and to honor both heritages.

7-) To repudiate the rising tide of separatist ideology that is engulfing the traditional civil rights organizations and their leaders.

8-) To signal the beginning of the end of "race" as the social construct that divides humanity.

My friends, we are achieving those goals, and we are achieving solidarity as a community. Good-bye. God bless you all, and may God bless America!


The Political Color Continuum: The multiracial community must not fall into unconscious lockstep with the "black" community.


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