Naomi Zack on ... Mixed-Race & Public Policy
- The following post is derived from
an essay written by Mixed-Race
Philosophy Professor, Naomi Zack.
Mixed-Race Philosophy Professor, Naomi Zack
`Mixed-Race and Public Policy'
[Naomi] Zack is a descriptive
social constructivist about "race"
(that is, she believes that our "racial"
'categories' are 'invented' by culture rather
than "discovered" [and that] there is no
biological basis for our conception of "races").
She is also a moral-eliminativist
about "racial" categories .
However, she [also openly] concedes that
society may not be ready for "Eliminativism" 
so, as a stop-gap measure she wants to be a
subjectivist about "racial" categories, and to
that end, suggests expanding their number
(in particular, to include the category "Mixed").
Arguing for 'increasing' the number of "racial" categories might
seem odd if your ultimate goal is to get rid of all of them, but
in fact she thinks that increasing the number undermines the
"racial" 'categorization' system and so will lead to its demise.
In essence, she is morally opposed to "racial" categories
because they were invented to "justify slavery" and are
thus not only `descriptively-invalid' (because lacking
any biological basis) but unjust by their very nature.
The One-Drop Rule 
It is assumed that one can be [one "race"
or another] but not [a combination].
But how do we square this with the fact
that a vast number of people in America , in
particular, have ancestors of [various] "races"?
One possible answer: you are
whatever "race" you 'appear' to be.
BUT, is that our culture's answer?
Two examples showing that it isn't:
By the 'appearance'- standard, Michael
Jackson's "race" would have changed.
But has it?
By the "appearance" standard, it would be possible to have
two siblings who share both parents to have two different
races (if one is particularly dark and the other isn't).
But is it?
Our culture's [racist] answer (to the question of how to categorize
people of Mixed-Ancestry given that [a racist society does not] allow
people to be [labeled in a way that's inclusive of their full-lineage):
The [racistly-enforced and scientifically-invalid] "One Drop" Rule.
That is, [the racist concept wherein it is declared that the
presence of] one [singular, known, visible, admitted or
discovered] mono-racially `Black' ancestor trumps
any other races and makes you "black" [categorized].
By contrast, to be `White' [categorized]
you have to have ALL white ancestors.
[However: given the history of Racial-Mixing [in the United
States and even elsewhere], it is HIGHLY probable that
huge numbers of self-described `White' people, [actually]
in fact, [do] have at least one mono-racially `Black' ancestor.
If they discover this, do they discover that their race has changed?]
The Biology of Race 
Definition of race according
to biological anthropologists:
a population that has more of some
physical traits than other populations.
There have probably never been pure races because:
racial populations have not been isolated from other racial
populations [so-called] social taboos against interbreeding
have never been completely effective [thus] which
`physical traits' are "racial" is determined by "culture"
not `biology' "race is what cultures take it to be" 
Contrast with sex: majority of people are
XX or XY and each correlates to one sex.
If instead, some men were XX and some women were
XY, we would deny that chromosomes track sex.
That's the situation for race:
no gene or chromosome has been found
that tracks "race" as we understand it.
Stronger point: it is impossible that one will ever be
found if [the social-construct of] race continues to be
determined by The [racist] One Drop Rule, because
"The presence of a [mono-racially] `Black' ancestor does
not ensure the presence of any of the genes of that
ancestor beyond the second generation" 
because each person only gets half their genes from each parent,
and as only some physical traits count as "racial" it is entirely
possible that they will not get the `Black' genes from a grandparent.
[Note: Zack does not believe that there are "racial genes", [and
although] she talks about them she means that if there were a
racial gene it would be for a `physical trait' associated with "race".]
Of course Du Bois and many others have argued that no individual
physical trait could be racial, because you can never find a trait
that is possessed by all and only members of a particular "race".
As Zack says: "the designation of these traits as "racial" is
a purely `cultural construction' " and it used to be thought
that [perceived] "cultural differences among "racially"-
designated groups were physically inherited" .
[The History of the racist One-Drop
Rule in the United States ofAmerica] 
It is usually assumed that [various mono-racially `Black']
Africans were enslaved because there was a prior-existing
concept of the "superiority" of the `White' "race", and an
assumption that mono-racial `Blacks' were "not fully human"
and that, while enslaving [mono-racial] `Whites' would
have been wrong, enslaving [mono-racial] `Blacks' was not.
In other words, the assumption was that the 'concept'
of "race" came first -- and [then] `slavery' followed.
Not so, says Zack.
In fact, in reality it was the reverse:
FIRST (i.e., from the time of the first settlers):
African prisoners [were] made [into] slaves (along
with certain Europeans and Native Americans)
SECOND (following [the] "Enlightenment"
political ideas of a human birthright of freedom):
[The mono-racial `Black'] Africans
were defined as a "race" of "Negroes"
That is, the `concept' of a "race" is comparatively
novel, and -- in fact -- more recent than slavery.
So, we have a circular justification of slavery:
[The mono-racially `Black'] "Negroes" [were] enslaved because
they [were now being "perceived" as being] a different "race",
BUT they [were now] only [being "perceived" as being] a
different race in the first place [simply] because they
were `enslaved' [prior to that new "perception"].
The Next Stage:
The "One-Drop" rule was [created simply] to ensure
that the children, [of those female slaves who were of
any part-Black ancestry] would [then also] be enslaved.
This [racist and sociallyenforced construct then allowed the horrific]
"breeding" of slaves by [encouraging `White' plantation owners and
overseers to forcibly rape, and otherwise sexually-assault and exploit
those slave women who were of any part mono-racial `Black' ancestry
(and who, obviously, were powerless to do anything about it other than
attempt to `escape to freedom' which, due to continual rape-conceived
pregnancies, etc., they were very rarely even able to attempt do and survive].
[The practice of the `White' plantation owners and overseers
forcibly raping the slave women who were of any part-`Black'
lineage was] particularly common after the 1830s when `importing'
[directly from the African continent] slaves became illegal
[on paper] (in 1808 but 'ownership' of slaves was still legal)
[and] the invention of the cotton gin meant [the construct
of `chattel-slavery' had become a rather lucrative business].
[[[Added Note on the sexual assaults on and exploitation of chattel
slave women who were of any part mono-racially- `Black' ancestry:
The usual age that the slave "women" were chosen, by
`White' plantation owners and overseers -- for being
sexually assaulted and exploited was around 12 years old.
This was common in `all' levels of `White' socio-economic divisions
including `White' men who were very rich and of a high social status.
For example, Sally Hemings was a mere 12 years old
when Thomas Jefferson began to `eye' her and decided
to select her for his decades-long sexual exploitation.
Hemings was actually of only 1/4 mono-racial `Black' lineage (then
referred to as being a `quadroon'); was also ctually the half-sister of
Jefferson's deceased wife (to whom she was handed over as a slave --
as part of a `wedding gift' from Jefferson's father-in-law); and was
said to essentially look almost entirely like a mono-racial `White'
woman (and eerily like Jefferson's daughters and deceased wife).
After his wife died and when Hemings was about 12 years old,
Jefferson in his perverted exploitation of this pre-teen child
slave -- is said to have actually built a room off to the side of
own his bedroom wherein he forced Hemings to "sleep"
AND contrary to popular `myth' not only did Jefferson
*never* once even consider freeing his slave-hostage, but he
also did *not* even once consider the idea of freeing any of the
children that resulted from his exploitation of Hemings but rather
when each turned 18 or 19 years old simply "allowed" them to `run
away' from the chattel-slavery that he had forced them to live under.]]]
[An Added Note about the 'One-Drop Rule':
While the state of Louisiana was] under French control [all of the]
Mixed-Race children were [always] designated as [being] Mixed-Race.
Then --- when Louisiana came under US control -- suddenly
these children were [re-categorized as being] "black".]
[Mixed-Race and Present
Public Policy: In Principle] 
[[The One-Drop Rule (ODR) should have disappeared with
chattel-slavery but it still remains a part of the U.S. public policy:
Many `Whites' [incorrectly assume and many Mixed-Race
Movement Advocates have made the false and unfair
accusation] that the "blacks" `want it that way' --- the
spurious "rationale" being "the more "blacks" the bigger the
voting bloc and the greater the support for affirmative action.
This `myth' remains and is seen as `common-knowledge' --
despite the fact that it is well-known that the largest beneficiaries
of affirmative action have actually been `White' women and gays)
When interviewed, it was actually discovered that those
very few "blacks" --- who were thought to have
"supported" the ODR actually "supported" it.
But rather, they had been `remaining voiceless' on the matter largely
for the mistaken reasons of "presumed of solidarity" as well as a
"presumed inability to have the right to choose" their own category.
This misconception seemed to largely be the result of the fact
that certain Mixed-Race Movement Advocates (ex. Susan
Graham and Project RACE) -- in their rhetoric, often gave the
false impression that the Mixed-Race Movement was concerned
only with the re-categorization of people who were the offspring
of parents who were part of an interracial union and place in
two (2) separate "racial" categories (which would, of course
leave the Mixed-Race people whose families had been so for
`multiple generations' completely and unfairly out of the picture).
As a result, it was realized that even if many of the so-called
"blacks" didn't actually think or even perceive of themselves
as being solely or predominately mono-racially `Black', many,
if not most, were being left under the impression that `they',
yet again, would still would not be given much of `any' choice
in how they would be `categorized' by the government offices.]]]
Nonetheless, many individuals of [Mixed-Race lineage]
experience the `One-Drop Rule' not only as racist in itself,
against them [and others], but [also] as fundamentally
supportive of the `false categories' of "race".
The whole idea of "race" requires an assumption of a population
stable in certain physical characteristics, which will "breed true".
That is, the idea of "race" rests on fantasies of "racial purity".
Now, although Zack believes there are no races,
she [feels] that even if we suppose there are, the
status of "Mixed" individuals raises a question:
Identifying one's race is, says Zack, an "existential process".
What happens is that a person "chooses" a racial `identity'
after they have learned how others "identify" them.
A person of `Mixed' "race" "invents her racial identity at
the same time that she tells herself she is discovering it":
This is an existential point.
The person of `Mixed' "race" is as entitled to this existential
process, with its self-defining illusion of `invention' masquerading
as "discover", as is the person of "presumptively pure" race.
she has a right to be [`categorized' as being] `Mixed' "race"
rather than [one mono-racial `category' or another] .
This is an odd passage to unravel, first because she seems to say first
that it is not really a choice because it is 'imposed' from outside,
and then she says that it is `invention' perceived as `discovery'.
Perhaps the latter is the case because [biologically] "races"
don't really exist, so there's nothing really to `discover'.
[[[Mills would agree that there are no "real" races to discover,
but would argue that there are `constructed' "races" to
"discover", and these are not `invented' by individuals).
Another strange thing is that she seems to [want to falsely]
imply that Mixed-Race people are "missing out" on
choosing `a' race, when it would seem that they of all
people get to choose (if they are ambiguous enough).
A truly dark [mono-racial] Black person cannot choose to be [of
the mono-racial] `White' [`category'], nor can a blond blue-eyed
person choose to be [of the mono-racial] `Black' [`category'].
But what she seems to be arguing is that the Mixed-Race person
"loses out" `because' she cannot choose to have the race "Mixed".
(But if that person really buys `The One-Drop Rule',
as presumable the "pure" race people `must',
then why wouldn't that person automatically self-identify
as [mono-racial], and not even think of herself as "mixed"?)
Would a `Mixed-Race' category hurt [the group that has
been, for the most part, `falsely' categorized as being
the ] "blacks, because it would sap their numbers?
No, says Zack  because, [not only are many of them
already truly Mixed-Race individuals themselves, but,
a `Mixed-Race' category] would undercut the notion
of racial purity and bring Americans closer as a result.
Zack further argues that `Mixed-Race' individuals
have a right to self-identify as such analogous
to national rights of self-determination.
Also that this follows from the idea that all individuals
should have the same rights regardless of race
A better case is that the UN charter stipulates that no
one "may be `compelled to belong' to an association".
Mixed-race individuals would also have a right to reject all [false]
"racial" `identification' [as well as `categorization'], just as a full
right to freedom in religious affiliation would include the choice
of no religious affiliation, or the choice of atheism.
[Mixed-Race and Present
Public Policy: In Fact] 
In American culture at large, the `fiction' of "race" continues to
`operate as fact', and in situations of backlash against Emancipatory
Progress, the victims of racial oppression, non-Whites', are insulted
and injured further for their progress against oppression.
[It does still remain factual that the] danger of the idea that "race is a
fiction" spreading -- is that people will then say [as many people who
have been categorized as being mono-racial `Whites', and who, thus,
are recipients of the `White "Privilege" ` associated with it, quite often
do] that we don't need Affirmative Action and "there is no racism" [the
false rationale being that "there can't be racism if there are no races"].
In effect, Zack is distinguishing between biological
"races" [something which scientist have repeatedly
proven simply does not exist] and socially constructed
`races' [a construct remains alongside that of racism]
Her denial of the former doesn't mean
that the latter don't affect people's lives.
Naomi Zack works as a Professor of
Philosophy at the University of Oregon .
Naomi's analyses are informed by her
own experience as a person of Mixed-Race
('Black', 'Amerindian' and `White') lineage.