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Naomi Zack on ... Mixed-Race & Public Policy

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  • wergifts2
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2009

      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" [161] 
      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 [157]

      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 [158]

      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" [158]

      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" [138] 
      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" [159].

      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 (
      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 socially–enforced 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".[161]

      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] .[162]

      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 [163] 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.[164]

      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.[166]

      [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.




      SOURCE: http://spruce.flint.umich.edu/~simoncu/167/zack.htm 

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