why are mixed parentage children black?
Chapter One: The Identity of8
Mixed Parentage Children
in British Society
Chapter Two: Race as a19
Chapter Three: The Social29
Construction of the
‘blackness’ in British
Mixed Parentage People?
Bibliography, Websites and Films46
Names for Mixed Parentage People61
Famous Mixed Parentage People62
Mixed parentage children are a fast growing segment of British society. Ever since the first mixed relationships in the 16th century, from freed slaves and British women, to the great mixed parentage British icons such as Mary Seacole, from the rape of slaves in the West Indies, to the present day mixed relationships, black/white mixed parentage children have played a significant role in British history.
This essay looks at the way in which mixed parentage children are seen in British society, past and present. It looks at the reasons why they are labelled as black, and the purpose that it serves in British society.
In order to do this, I have used qualitative data, and printed materials to confirm that mixed parentage children are indeed viewed as non-white.
To prove that mixed parentage people are a social construction, I have investigated the works of Cox and Weber to show that race has historically and is presently used to preserve the position of the ruling classes in British society.
By looking at the ideas of Alex Callinicos and Conan Henry, and the examples of the relationships that Brazilian and Australian mixed parentage people have with the state, I have shown that they play a vital role in the protection of the political-economic structure that keeps the ruling class in place.
BAAFBritish Association for Adoption and Fostering
BBCBritish Broadcasting Corporation
DNADid Not Answer
My name is XXX XXX
My father is Afro-Caribbean, my mother is white, part English, part Irish.
My complexion is ‘beige’. I have blue/green eyes. My facial and physical features I have inherited from my father. My hair is curly, dark, brown, and ever so slightly blonde at the roots.
When I went to Egypt, people thought I was Egyptian. When I was in Cuba, people thought I was Cuban. In Lithuania, I was black. In Kenya I was white. In Jamaica people called me ‘yellowman’. In the Dominican Republic people called me ‘Mestizo’.
That is what it is like when one is mixed parentage – people provide you with their interpretations of what you should be called, how you should act, how you should think, and where you should hail from.
I have chosen to investigate the subject of mixed parentage children and their identity for two reasons.
Firstly, for many, the attitude towards having a ‘mixed’ relationships draws a similar response time and time again: ‘but what about the children?’ This paper looks at why people have this perception.
Secondly, mixed parentage people are now the third largest minority in the UK, 14.6% of the total ethnic minority population1. According to a Policy Studies Institute report in 1997, half of all black men born here who are currently in a relationship have a white partner, and a third of black women2 have a white partner. Today, one in 20 pre-school children in the country are thought to be mixed parentage and they now make up 11% of the cultural minority population3. With 50% of these under the age of 124, their identity is now a crucial element in British society.
The term ‘mixed parentage’ in this paper is used to define people who have one black parent, and one white parent. I am aware that what defines ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’ is a contentious issue. However, for the purposes of this essay, a black person is regarded as someone with two parents who describe themselves as black (regardless of their family’s history), and a white person will be described as someone whose parents are both white (again, regardless of their family’s history).
The American sociologist F. James Davis offers six perspectives for the identity of mixed parentage people:
1. The individual occupies a lower status than either of her or his parents, as was the case with Anglo-Indians in India. 2. The individual achieves a higher status than either parent, as is the case with mestizos in Mexico. 3. The individual is a member of an intermediate group, which acts as a buffer between the ‘white’ minority and the ‘black’ majority, as was the case with ‘coloureds’ in Apartheid South Africa. 4. The individual’s social position is determined by the darkness or lightness of his skin complexion, as is the case in Brazil. 5. The individual is entitled to an exclusive position in society and regarded as an assimilated accepted minority member, as is the case in the USA with ‘partial’ Native Americans, Filipinos, Japanese or other ‘racially distinctive minority ancestry other than Black’. 6. The individual is bound by the ‘one-drop-rule’ which dictates that the individual occupies the same position also known as the lower status parent, such as in the USA5.
In Britain, mixed parentage children are seen as black and are largely bound by the ‘one drop rule’. This paper will investigate why this is the case6.
In order to do this, I will need to consider the following issues:
How and why do mixed parentage children see themselves from a racial perspective? How do their peers see them? Where has the notion of racial classification come from, and why do we have racial classifications? What is the ruling class’s attitude towards mixed relationships and mixed parentage children, and why is there scant recognition of the mixed parentage group in British society? Finally, if the mixed parentage group is social constructed, why are they identified as black, as opposed to white?
I will argue that racism and the classification of races is primarily used as a tool of the ruling classes to cement their dominant position in British society7.
My argument is three-fold:
1. That mixed parentage children are seen as black in British society. 2. That this is not accidental nor incidental. That the ruling classes in the form of the state have socially constructed the identity of mixed parentage children in British society. 3. That this is designed to sustain the belief that there are distinct differences between the ‘races’ (behavioural and cultural8) which preserves and sustains animosity through prejudice and stereotyping between black and white people. That mixed parentage children are labelled as black, as opposed to white because the historical use of the ‘one drop rule’ in British society means that it is easier to do this. That the fears that white society have of black youths, (which now includes mixed parentage youths) enables the ruling class to be seen as protectors of society and crucially, not providers for society.
This argument will be conveyed in three chapters.
Chapter one will look at the identity of mixed parentage children in Britain. I will begin by looking at the history of mixed parentage relationships in Britain. I will then explain that mixed parentage children in Britain are seen to be without a white identity, and, even if they are not wholly accepted as black, they are seen to possess a black identity by both black and white people.
Evidence for this will be provided through two mediums.
Printed materials which have been extracted from libraries and the internet to look at the past and present relationships that mixed parentage people have had in Britain.
Seven interviews taken from seven young people:
Carlito, male, mixed parentage, aged 23
Kleinfeld, male, mixed parentage, aged 22
Benny Blanco, male, mixed parentage, aged 19
Stephanie, female, black, aged 22
Norwalk, male, black, aged 20
Ruth, female, white, aged 24
Gail, female, asian, aged 259.
Each interview was audio recorded and took approximately 1hr 30mins. No set questions were asked10.
The questions that I asked mixed parentage interviewees were more focussed on their treatment by white and black people in British society.
The questions that I asked non-mixed interviewees focussed on their perception of the racial identity of mixed parentage children, and why they held this perception.
I will not be using the real names of the interviewees.
Chapter two will begin with a discussion on the merits of the varying theories that attempt to explain why humans have categorised races, and why racism exists. The theories of Cox and Weber offer the most credible explanation for the classification of races, and pursue the argument that the origins and continual use of racial categorisation and racism is a tool of the ruling class.
The latter half of chapter two will focus on the studies of scientists such as Linnaeus and Blumenbach in the 19th century which attempted to prove that races were separate, as an example of the use of race to protect the social positions of the ruling classes.
Chapter three relates the theories of race as a social construct to the identity of mixed parentage people in British society. I argue that mixed parentage people are seen as black in British society because it helps maintain racial barriers and stereotypes that serve to perpetuate the attention of the lower classes on racial issues, and deflect attention from those who dominate their socio-economic position, the ruling class.
I will look at the hypotheses of scientists of Sir Francis Galton, Dover and CB Davenport, acting on the wishes of the ruling class, who wrote about the dangers of mixed relationships. This will demonstrate that historically, the perception of mixed parentage people in Britain has been non-white, but more crucially, as black. They also demonstrate the lengths that the ruling class will take to secure their position. Writers Conan Henry and Alex Callinicos offer theories that will support the view that a recognised mixed parentage group challenge the social order, and that this is why they are considered black.
To show that the social construction of the mixed parentage group is neither exceptional, nor restricted to Britain, I will use two international case studies. Brazilian and Australian society each has a significant mixed parentage population whose identity has been manoeuvred by the ruling class for their own improvement.
Throughout this paper I have looked at a variety of theorists, sociologists and writers on the subject of mixed relationships, and mixed parentage children. Shyllon Folarin has done extensive research on the history of black people and mixed relationships in Britain. Barbara Tizzard and Ann Phoenix have also done extensive research on the subject and discuss Britain’s historical inability to understand the identity of mixed parentage people. Suki Ali argues that Britain has never been tolerant or liberal with mixed relationships. Jayne Ifekwunigwe contends that white Britain is prejudiced against mixed marriages and it is this prejudice that negatively affects the development of mixed parentage children. Jill Olumide argues that mixed race people are not given the ‘social credit’ that they need in British society in order to discover their identity in Britain. F James Davis’ ‘Who is Black’ looks at the ‘one drop theory’, and how white European history has been obsessed with keeping their race ‘pure’.
I will be looking at black/white relationships, specifically the children of European and African or African-Caribbean relationships. The reason for this focus is that the relationship between black African/Caribbeans and Europeans over the last 500 years has been excessively brutal. From Slavery, to Colonialism, to the Corporate Colonialism that now exists in Africa and the Caribbean, this polarisation makes the investigation of black/white sexual relationships and the identity of their children significant.
The term ‘ruling class’ through-out this paper refers to that segment or class society that has the most economic and political power. Under capitalism, the ruling class consists of those who own and control the means of production and thus are able to dominate and exploit the working class. In this essay, it incorporates the political and business elites and those who control the media.
The word ‘race’ will be used to describe white and black people. Whilst I am aware that this term has its faults, it is the most recognisable and universally understood. I will be describing ‘mixed’ people as ‘mixed parentage’, since it is the way in which I describe myself. I will not use terms such as ‘Half-Caste’ which suggest that half of my heritage is ‘of more worth’ than the other, ‘Mestizo’ which means half-breed11 and Mulatto originally means a ‘small mule’ in Spanish12. ‘Mixed race’ is confusing since there is an already established human ‘race’, and thus suggests that I am ‘half-human’. Dual heritage and bi-racial are newer terms and are not universally understood. I am aware that some ‘mixed’ people have a problem with the word ‘mixed’. Joseph Harker argues that the term ‘mixed parentage’ implies that “I [am] mixed up. Mongrel. Hybrid. Impure. It is just an updated version of the old derogatory term ‘half-caste’13. However, I disagree and feel comfortable with the term. Consequently, it will be used through-out the paper.
Children in this essay are defined as individuals up until the age of 26 years old.
Chapter One: The Identity of Mixed Parentage Children in British Society
‘I’m mixed on the inside, but I am black on the outside’.
This chapter looks at the way that mixed parentage children are seen from a racial perspective in British society. My argument is that mixed parentage people have a relationship and a partial acceptance with the black community, and are rarely accepted into the white community.
I will look initially at the history of mixed parentage relationships in Britain. I will then use qualitative data to determine mixed parentage children’s identity in society by looking at the way in which mixed parentage people regard themselves today, and their experience in British society. I will use the same data to understand how white people and British society, black and white, sees mixed parentage people.
The History of Mixed Parentage People and Relationships in Society
Records suggest that the first African slaves were brought to Britain from West Africa in 155514. For the next two hundred years, an estimated 14-15,000 black slaves were brought to England (the overall British population at the time was 9 million) 15. Most were concentrated in London, but there were also numerous slaves in ports such as Bristol and Liverpool.
Most of the slaves brought to England were male, since there was a demand for footmen and male servants, and sexual relationships and marriages with white women particularly from the lower classes were frequent. The first recorded marriage between a black and white person took place in 157816. There were a handful of free slaves, among the most famous, Ukawsaw Gronniosaw17 and Ottobah Cugoano18. Almost all of them married white women and had children, although little is known of them.
During the 19th Century, after the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807, black immigration was greatly reduced, and the descendants of the freed slaves in Britain were absorbed into the general population19. With white British people overseas maintaining the slave trade, there were a number of mixed parentage children born abroad who later came to England. One of the most famous was the Crimean nurse Mary Seacole20.
Other black immigrants during the 18th and 19th century included small numbers of West Africans who came to Britain for their higher education, funded by wealthy parents or missionary societies, such as the famous composer and conductor, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor21. Every one of these famous mixed parentage people regarded themselves as black and either fought fervently for black rights, or through their talents, expressed a deep relationship with Africa.
By the end of the nineteenth century there were only 9,189 black people living in Britain, mainly West African and West Indian seamen who had settled in the dockland areas of the major ports such as Cardiff, Liverpool and London22. The descendants of the black slaves had integrated into the white population through intermarriage. Many British people today must, unknowingly, have an African ancestor.
The situation changed dramatically after World War Two. After the Windrush in 1948, 60,000 West Indians migrated to Britain between 1955-196223. At the beginning, most were male, and intermarriage with white women was frequent. During the fifties and sixties, the number of West Indian immigrants greatly increased, and included many single women, as well as the wives and children of men who had arrived a little earlier. Although this reduced the number of mixed parentage relationships24, mixed marriages continued and today Britain has the largest mixed parentage population in Europe.
The Way Mixed Parentage Children Saw Themselves Before They Were Influenced By Wider Society
The following sections look at the experiences of young mixed parentage people in Britain, and the attitudes that British black and white people have towards their identity.
The popular belief in Britain is that mixed parentage people have identity issues. The evidence that I presented opposes this view. Before young mixed parentage people were directly influenced by society’s opinions25, needs and prejudices about mixed relationships and their children (i.e mostly before secondary school), the results from the interviews suggest that mixed parentage children have no identity issues at all. Indeed, they felt comfortable confident in whom they were.
“Until the age of 11, the idea of being mixed parentage didn’t really cross my mind in the political sense much”.
However, the evidence suggests that race was still an issue for pre-secondary school mixed parentage children, and that they were not aware of their dual heritage.
As Carlito asserts:
“My Dad made sure that at a young age I was well informed about black history and culture, as did my mum. I was taught about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I was taught about Africa in many different ways through maps, books programmes, museums. Therefore I identified with and developed an affinity with Africa and with black culture at a very early age”.
“The first time I knew that I was different was my first day at primary school at 6 years old. The church that I went to was all black but it didn’t make me act differently or think differently or anything”.
What is also significant is that their close friends at this point were from a variety of backgrounds.
“I had friends from lots and lots of different places. I had three white friends, three black friends, one half-Iranian half-Dutch friend, and three Asian friends”.
“My friends were mixed. One was black, one was white Australian, one was from somewhere in Europe”.
In other words at a young age, race is important, but not given any value, and those mixed parentage children felt comfortable with their identity. This is because they were free to choose it for themselves, and the wider society was not imposing their own agendas upon them.
The Way the General White Society See Mixed Parentage Children
White British society has long held negative opinions of mixed relationships and their children.
Historical opposition to ‘racial mixing’ was often disguised by a stated concern for the sad products of the ‘unnatural coupling’26. Stonequist’s ‘Marginal Man’ thesis suggested that those of mixed heritage would suffer undue psychological difficulties as a result of their ‘conflicting cultures or races’27.
In the 1940s, studies were now completed in the UK that suggested that mixed-parentage people at the time suffered not only from the same stigma as people with two black parents – that of colour and low social class – but also from the additional stigma of having a mother who was considered depraved28. In 1958, a Gallup poll found that 71% of respondants disapproved of mixed marriages, and only 13% approved29. Not much has changed today. Recently, BBC News Online research found that only a third of Britons think people in the UK are tolerant of mixed race relationships30. “Disgusting, I don’t know how a decent woman could let a blackie touch her”31 was the comment from one woman in Barbara Tizzard’s book. “I’m not racist but two cultures shouldn’t mix… the half-castes…they’re a breed apart”32 were the feelings that a 56 year old white working class woman from London expressed in Suki Ali’s report on British attitudes to mixed parentage children. These comments expose the widely held belief that mixed parentage children are definitely not seen as white33.
Even if there is no racism openly from white people, the interviewees expressed an inability to feel close to their white friends.
“My white friends have never ever been able to be completely honest with me because race always gets in the way. I cannot say with hand on heart that most of my white friends would stand up against racism if anyone made a racist statement against me. They simply don’t understand what I have been through and where I am coming from”.
The rejection from the white community is reinforced with the notion that if ‘mixed parentage’ is not white, then logically, they are black. In researching for this essay, I came across a statistic which reported that, “the white/black mixed parentage group now make up 10% of the total black population34”. The quote is suggesting that mixed parentage people are black or are part of the black community. The British Association for Adoption and Fostering also places black and mixed parentage people in the same group. On their website they reported that “Afro-Caribbean and children of mixed parentage were far less likely to receive enquiries than white children”35.
The BBC recently reported that 4 out of 5 Afro-Caribbean children have one white parent36. The inference is that regardless of the fact that you have a white parent, you are still Afro-Caribbean. The Home Office statistics with respect to crime and crime victims are similarly formulated. In other words, mixed parentage people have been officially counted as black in society.
The interviewees confirmed this viewpoint.
“I can’t tell you how many times people have wanted to beat me up because I am black, or people that have actually beaten me up for being black. Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells, London, anywhere in Britain. I was once chatting to this girl in a club when this man came up to me and told me that he hated the fact that ‘black men came to his town and stole the women’ as he put it”.
“If they are fairly ‘tanned’ then they are seen are black. The reason is because they are not white. That’s how society is. If you are not white then you are black, even though mixed people come out all different; the beige, the really pale, and the really dark”.
Carlito was exposed to the hegemonic ideas of the mixed parentage identity through his experiences in an all-white Boarding school. “At Secondary School, everyone referred to me as black…for the first time, people cussed me using the ‘n’ word. Some people liked me because of my Afro hair. Since I was seen as black, naturally, I felt more black”.
Frequently, the casting for black people in television programmes and films continues to be mixed parentage individuals. Most of the British public finds it hard to determine who is black and who is mixed parentage.
Ruth explains this:
“If you look at adverts, films or other television programmes, you find that mixed parentage people play black people frequently, or vice versa. The film ‘Secrets and Lies’37 was about the identity of a mixed parentage person who looked in no way mixed at all”.
From personal experience, Gail asserts:
“I was on Channel Four course which is designed to include the most promising young black talents in television. Out of 15, 8 of them were mixed parentage. Clearly, the people who run the course think firstly that they are not white, and secondly, that they are black”.
Hence, mixed parentage children are essentially seen as non-white by white people, and are therefore thought of as black.
The Way Black People view Mixed Parentage Children
Since both black and mixed parentage people receive similar types of racism, are called similar derogatory names, and are essentially seen as the same by the majority of society, there is a connection and an understanding between their groups.
In Carlito’s ‘all-white’ boarding school:
“Any black kids in the school, no matter what age all hung around with each other and chatted to each other, and related to each other and spoke to each other about black things. The fact that I was mixed meant little. The key was that we had the same experiences”.
“Black people and I have a connection. Racism and colour rules our lives and with black people we have already reached an understanding about that issue. It is frustrating to have to spend years, decades, sorting this whole thing out with white people because by not understanding this important issue means that I cannot relate to you”.
The black media is also accepting of mixed parentage people, and often ‘claims’ mixed parentage celebrities as black.
An example of this can be found in the August 2005 edition of ‘Pride’ magazine, a publication which is marketed at black women, and focuses on the dignity and self-respect that black women give to themselves. It almost unconsciously accepts mixed parentage people as black women, or at the very least as women with significant black heritage. The letter of the month was one featuring Bob Marley. There were stories about Alicia Keys playing the Black Panther, Angela Davis in a forthcoming movie and a review of the talents of up and coming British soul star, Nate James. ‘10 minutes with Mrs Dynamite’ was given a full-page spread, whilst ‘Tea with Melanie B’ was given a double page spread. Amerie received a double page interview, and the financial review was given by Akwasi Duodu. On the last page, there was a special mention that it was Halle Berry’s birthday last month. All these individuals, despite having one black and one white parent, feature heavily in a black British magazine. This indicates that mixed parentage are accepted as black, and/or their achievements are considered black achievements, not mixed parentage achievements.
The same acceptance can be found in the ‘New Nation’ newspaper on Monday 29th August 2005, which featured a tribute to Bob Marley, and contained articles about Lisa Maffia and Speedy, who again are all mixed parentage.
Musicians such as Craig David, sports personalities such as Daley Thompson, Tiger Woods, Rio Ferdinand, or film stars such as Halle Berry, politicians like Paul Boateng, or historical figures such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Mary Seacole are thought of in the same way. Even if they are not fully accepted as black, their successes are claimed as black successes, and advances for the black community.
Militant pro-black organisations such as the Nation of Islam are also welcoming of mixed parentage people as Carlito explains: “When I attended a Nation of Islam meeting, I was told that I was a ‘half-original’. When I got to the place, they addressed me as brother and were very nice to me. I was surprised because I thought I might be treated badly because of my light skin”.
Although their is more of an affinity with the black community, the mixed parentage interviewees and black interviewee talked about the sporadic negativity from black people towards the mixed heritage.
“At University, there were two black girls who hated me because ‘I always was hanging out with black kids’…the Afro-Caribbean society also never accepted me because I wasn’t fully black”.
Stephanie illustrates the duality that exists within the black community; that mixed parentage people are accepted and rejected at different times, amongst different people. “Black people have a general perception that lighter skin is a threat. I am talking about mixed people with lighter skin. So they are sometimes quick to withdraw credibility from them cos to be black is credible. So if its situation in which mixed parentage people are participating in a black thing then they can be quick to be cussed”.
According to Jill Olumide and Jayne Ifekwunigwe, this attitude is frequently found in schools. In many cases, black children in schools try to use ‘hybrid’ forms of modern culture to claim cultural superiority over white, Turkish, Cypriot and South Asian children. Since black culture the most dominant form of street and youth culture, they used this in order to gain power in their environment. Some black children feel very protective over their ‘street’ superiority and feel that mixed parentage children are trying to ‘cash in’ on their credibility38.
The evidence above displays a distinct absence of a mixed parentage culture in British society. What is significant is that the black media, and black people accept mixed parentage people as possessing similar heritage, whilst white society fails to do this. Hence, mixed parentage children inevitably feel closer to ‘blackness’ than to ‘whiteness’.
Race as a Social Construct?
“Racial stratification tends to correspond and to reinforce the system of occupational, economic, social and political stratification of the society as a whole”39. Shibutani and Kwan
“…it isn’t the…white man who is racist, but it’s the…political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man…American society [as is the same with British society] makes it next to impossible for humans to meet in America and not be conscious of their colour…the white man is not inherently evil, but…society influence[s] him to act evilly. [It] has produced and nourishes a psychology which brings out the lowest, most base part of human beings”40.
This chapter focuses on the reasons for the emergence of racial classifications. It argues that the attempts to find differences between races has been an effort to maintain the hegemonic control that the ruling classes have over the lower classes in British society.
I will firstly look at the alternative theories attempting to explain why racism exists. This will be followed by an analysis of Cox’s and Weber’s theory which argues that the separation of the races has been used by the ruling classes to stabilise their power. As empirical evidence for this, I shall relate this to the ‘scientific’ theories of the 19th century which declared that black and white people were different species.
Theories of Racism
There are a number of conflicting views about the origins of racism. One view held by Folarin Shyllon asserts that racism originated from white male fears over relationships between black men and white women.
“Black men marrying white women was and is the root of Anglo-Saxon racism. It had been fine as long as Englishmen went to Africa raping and ravishing black women and girls. But when the black man came to England and started entering the body of the white woman, the white man reacted wrathfully. Such is the twisted contradiction in the thoughts of the white man that he takes the black woman at will, and at the same time believes that his civilisation is destroyed when the black man enters the body of the white woman”.41
Whilst the history of black and European people has shown us that the fear of black male sexuality has led to a determination by white men to prevent racial mixing, this could not have been the reason for slavery since racial mixing had existed before fears of mixing had ever been created.
Theorists like Chris Harris42 argue that the origins of racism are the result of what we see. He argues that it is easier to categorise people through different shades and therefore it is that which affects the way in which we judge people. Hence, we associate identity with colour, and colour with identity.
Studies of Rorschach tests43 have shown that the perception of colour is diffuse, emotively charged and that it precedes more refined discriminations of form and content. Therefore, within symbolic equations, the colour term will retain the emotional charge and link together numerous levels of finer meaning.44
However the reality is that in many societies, slavery and racism was based upon the winners and the losers, and not colour. For example, in Greco-Roman societies, Ethiopians (blacks) were favourably received. Their ‘piety, justice and wisdom’ were respected; their physical characteristics were regarded as a response to climate and geography, and there were neither pejorative attributes related to their blackness nor dogmas of white superiority45.
Whilst each of these theories has some merit and in some way been responsible for the different treatment of people with different colours in society, they all fail to tackle the reality of racism in Britain. As far back as one cares to trace, British history has always been multi-cultural. For example Septimus Serverus, the African Emperor hailing from Libya, spent more time in Britain than any of his other provinces and brought with him many legionnaires from Africa. The Romans from what is now Italy, the Saxons from Germany, the Vikings from Scandinavia, and the Normans from France, have all made today what we called ‘white’ people living in the British Isles46. Racial mixing has been accepted for many centuries, regardless of colour. Hence, it is my contention that racism derives from another source.
Race and Racism as a Social Construct
I argue that the categorisation of race essentially masks a political agenda. From Hitler’s victimisation of the Jewish population of Germany or the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, each case is, in essence, a means to protect and justify the power of the ruling classes.
Dahrendorf47 identifies the major class division in society between those who wield power and authority by virtue of their offices in basic institutions and structures of society, and those who are the objects of this power and whose life circumstances and opportunities are influenced by its exercise48. C W Mills49 elaborates on this and defines the economic, political, and military as the major pyramids of power in most Western societies, the most important being economic. Those who occupy strategic command posts in pivotal organisations are located at the top of these pyramids. These are “….men whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men and women; they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences”50.
From a Machiavellian51 point of view, ultimately, the success of this or any social elite in maintaining its position depends upon its ability to monopolise the basic sources of wealth and power in the political-economic order. As Veblen52 asserted, life-style is based on the presumption of wealth and because of its special claims to privilege, it requires special treatment from those in political authority. Yet their position is precarious, and there are many instances in history in which social elites have lost control over the political-economic order and has disappeared – only to be replaced by new claimants to social honour and prestige.
A study completed by Warner and Lunt of the New England community of Yankee City in 1941 indicated that the more favoured social classes seek to develop a distinctive style of life and to restrict their social intercourse to those whom they call their own53. Only among those defined as social equals are they likely to develop their friendships, their cliques, their social clubs, and even to contract their marriages. It also indicated that what is known as ‘ascriptive’ criteria plays a role (though of varying significance) in the evaluative scheme of honour and worthiness: that is, criteria that are a function of birth and over which the individual has no control. Examples are kinship, family lineage, religion, national origins, and colour.
However, where the principle of the marketplace and not of hereditary right governs the working of the economic order, other claims to status may be generated which are more in the control of individual, such as income and wealth. Possession of these resources may be esteemed in a society, but even more significantly their possession allows the person to command goods and services that underpin the life-style of a class, and as such, bestow one an important claim of access to that class. As Veblen once wrote, conspicuous consumption is a major mechanism for staking claims to social position in society54.
Weber, in his book, ‘Class, Status, and Party’ recognised that the status order would be threatened at its roots if the acquisition of wealth in the marketplace were enough to bestow the same status honour and position, as does birth and inherited life-style. Accordingly, and this is the key, “all groups having interests in the status order react with special sharpness precisely against the pretensions of purely economic acquisition”55.
With race and ethnicity, its role in the social order varies with the relative importance of the ‘ascriptive’ criteria. In a social order dominated by such a criteria, race fits neatly into the scheme of things, in part because it is itself an ‘ascriptive’ characteristic and in part because it is one of the evaluative criteria that reinforces the established distribution of honour and prestige.
This is a view is expanded by Cox in his book, ‘Caste, Class and Race’. His assertion is that the issue of race has been systematically utilized and exploited by the superstructure56, keen to maintain their power over the lower classes. He observed that the “power group [his term for the people in society who control the means of production, or who dominate the political sphere] is preoccupied with devices for controlling the state”57. As Cox puts it, “racial antagonism is political-class conflict”58.
The dominant political class, he argued, uses the apparatus of the State to enact policies and to institute practices whose intent is to divide the working class along racial lines. He insisted, “race prejudice may be thought of as having its genesis in the propagandistic and legal contrivances of the white ruling class for securing mass support of its interest. It is an attitude of distance and estrangement mingled with repugnance, which seeks to conceptualise as brutes the human objects of exploitation”59. This is responsible for every use of race:
“Racial exploitation is merely one aspect of the problem of the proletarianization of labour, regardless of colour of the labourer…The capitalist exploiter, being opportunistic and practical will utilize any convenience to keep his labour and other resources freely exploitable. He will devise and employ race prejudice when that becomes convenient60“.
Race and race relations as an issue in society has not risen spontaneously, neither is it a product of traditions, or community sentiment. It is instead a collection of imposed ideals forced upon us by the dominant political class. Race prejudice then is the result of a deliberate state policy of debasing and devaluing one group of people in the eyes of others. In this manner, the political arena, control of the state and its legal-normative apparatus is central to the study of race relations.
One such example of the use of race to sustain and entrench the power and influence of the ruling classes over the working classes, has been what is known as Socio-Darwinism61. A number of theories emerged in the 18th and 19th Century which attempted to legitimise slavery, colonialism and the generally brutal treatment of black people.
Carl Linnaeus in 175862, published his classical racial theory stating that races are biological, that physical traits determine mental/social traits, and these are rankable. His findings are as follows:
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in 1781 published his version of the racial ladder64. He suggested that races are no longer based on geography (as was once the popular belief), but on appearance, and that there is a hierarchy which splits them up:
For Blumenbach, each race has a unique set of physiological traits i.e skin colour, hair texture and body shape. Each cluster of physiological trait implies a distinct set of moral, cognitive, and cultural characteristics. Races can be ranked according to the value of these characteristics and these traits and characteristics are heritable as a racial essence.
The most notorious scientific theory came from Edward Long, in his book entitled Candid Reflections published in 177265 which concluded that black people are closer to apes than man66. To put it bluntly, black people had not evolved much since apes, and this placed them much lower than the more developed, cultured, intelligent, white man.
The best way to claim that the theft of the riches of Africa: slaves, property, land, cotton, gold, diamonds and sugar etc., was legitimate, and entirely in line with Christian ideology was to de-humanise black people and thus place them outside of the moral code. This meant that the ruling classes could continue to gather wealth unchallenged. Many of these Scientists were acting on the requests from the ruling classes to justify their actions, indeed Long himself was large plantation owner in the West Indies.
Later, these theories were revived for both for the expansion of colonialism, and for virulent discrimination against the black people in Britain.
Cox summed this up when he said:
“Slavery was not born of racism: rather racism was the consequence of slavery. The features of the man, his hair, his colour, his dentifrice, his ‘subhuman characteristics so widely pleaded, were only the later rationalisations to justify a simpler economic fact: that the colonies needed labour and resorted to negro labour because it was the cheapest and the best. The planter would have gone to the moon, if necessary, for labour. Africa was nearer than the moon”67.
The Social Construction of ‘blackness’ in British Mixed Parentage Children?
“…the artificially-created antagonism between the English and Irish workers…is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And that class is fully aware of that”68. Karl Marx writing in 1848
This chapter looks at the place that mixed parentage children play in the social construction of race. I argue that the British ruling class’s position is made secure by labelling mixed parentage people as black. I will argue that a strong and visibly active mixed parentage group in British society would be problematic for the social, political and economic hegemony of the ruling class. I will also argue that it is easier for the ruling class to label mixed parentage people as black
I will firstly look at the historical views of mixed relationships and mixed parentage children in British society. This will be followed by an explanation of why British mixed parentage children have received the socially constructed ‘black’ identity that they now possess, and then a look at how other countries socially construct their ‘mixed’ populations. The social construction of Mixed Parentage people in Britain
Mixed Parentage people have been and continue to be a vital element in the ‘pimping’69 of race, particularly in British society. Hostility to mixed unions, an inherent part of ‘scientific racism’, became almost universal in the 1800s in Britain. Many scientists asserted that race mixing would lead to physical, mental and emotional deformities, or to ‘hybrid degeneration’.
Sir Francis Galton, the founder of the eugenics movement70 was one such scientist. He and supporters of the eugenics movement believed that it was possible to apply the principles learnt from animal and plant crossing to improving the ‘human stock’. Thus, ‘superior’ people were encouraged to breed, and try to prevent criminals, the mentally ill, and other ‘undesirables’ from reproducing. Galton was committed to the view that the English, as an intellectually superior race, “should not breed with an inferior race such as negroes because the reduction in the proportion of individuals in the highest grade of intelligence”71. He believed that by “crossing” white people with black people, whites would lose a sizeable proportion of their most intelligent people72.
C B Davenport, a geneticist from the US wrote that “often one sees in mulattos [mixed parentage people] an ambition and push combined with intellectual inadequacy which makes the unhappy hybrid dissatisfied with his lot and a nuisance to others””73.
The Reasons for the Social Construction
The reason why mixed parentage children are labelled as black, as opposed to white is because it is easier to do so. With the help of scientists such as Galton, the ‘white race’ has been seen as a pure and enviable entity, and mixing has been thought of as destroying ‘whiteness’. Hence, Britain, as in US, adopted the ‘one drop rule’: the notion that any black ancestry made you black. If you weren’t 100% white, then you could not be admitted into the elite club, and were forced to settle with the losers prize: to be black.
This is a belief that has survived into the present day, although not necessarily with the same ‘winners and losers’ philosophy. White people in Britain have been told for so long that it is their ‘whiteness’ that makes them British, that mixed parentage children were automatically thought of as non-British, and most importantly, black. With the emergence of the mixed parentage group, it was far easier for the ruling classes to use this ‘traditional’ theory and label mixed parentage children as black. Consequently, a white and a black parent would be seen to produce a black child.
The reason for the need to socially construct this identity is that it maintains the white/black division in society. With this division, comes a set of prejudices and stereotypes that are resurrected by the press and the government periodically to blame black people for the social ills in society. Examples of this negatively constructed and incorrect stereotype include the way that black youths have been labelled as muggers, gang members, and a menace to society. The media hype given to the Police’s ‘Operation Trident’ which deal with black-on-black crime (an American term) is confusing when one looks at British Crime Surveys which clearly indicate that black people are actually more at risk of facing street crime and gun crime, and that gun crime is equally a white problem as it is a black problem74. The huge media exposure given to ‘bad, violent, mean, and wholly negative‘ rappers such as ‘50 Cent’ perpetuates the fear of the black male. The Notting Hill Carnival, despite being statistically much safer than the Reading Festival which takes place on the same day, is always lambasted in the press for being too dangerous75. This fear of black people (only 3% of the British population) averts the attention of the population from the reality of the social problems. These prejudices are used principally to blame ‘other’ people for the failing of the ruling classes in providing basic resources for the white working class.
Mixed relationships are a disregard for racial stereotypes and the fears about racial mixing. They demonstrate that black and white people are relating to one another, regardless of their history, and regardless of their cultural differences. This directly blurs and challenges the long standing, and profitable stereotype that exists of black people.
The reality of the British working class, black and white and mixed is that they equally face alienation and exploitation76. In Britain, the richest 10% of the population have increased their share of Britain’s total wealth from around 50% in 1991, to 57% today77. This makes Britain one of the world’s most unequal societies. In 1979 there were 926,000 people employed in the 21 lowest paid occupations, such as sales assistants, bar staff and waiters; by 1999 there were nearly 1.5 million people in the same jobs78. Over one quarter of 18-19 year olds from the richest 20% of households attended university in 1979; this had risen to just under half by 1997. By contrast, only 8% of 18-19 year olds from the poorest 20% of households attended university in 1979, and just 15% by 199779. A Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) report found that between 1997 and 2000, ‘most of the new places in higher education have gone to those from already advantaged areas. The report also states that ‘young people living in the most advantaged 20% of areas are 5-6 times more likely to enter into higher education than those living in the least advantaged 20% of areas80.
‘The social class of a person’s parents actually has a greater impact on their educational attainment now than previously…thus it is not the most able who have benefited from the expansion of the UK education system but rather the most privileged81.
Steve Machin shows that those born into the lowest income households in 1970 are more likely to remain in the lowest income group than those born in 1958. Conversely, fewer of the very rich now slip down the income scale82. Two workers in five have usual working weeks longer than 40 hours, compared to only on in five across France, Denmark and Sweden. Women earn on average a fifth less than men83. The number of households in which no person is employed rose from 4% in 1968 to 8.2% in 1977, and peaked at just under 20% in 199284. Just over 60% of lone parent households with dependent children are now in employment, usually in service sector jobs which offer low working hours85. The number of childless, workless households in poverty reached record levels in 2002-386. Only 35.8% of workers are affected by collective bargaining87.
As Cox importantly points out:
“…the white proletariat of early capitalism had to endure burdens of exploitation quite similar to those which many coloured peoples must bear today” 88.
To diffuse natural antagonisms born out of social inequalities, the power structure in the form of the government, the media, and large companies do what they have always done, especially in times of economic crisis, which is to attempt to divide the working class along the lines of race, thus weakening any coalition and solidarity and diffusing action. This tactic has been used in a number of different times, and with a number of different racial groups.
This divide is achieved by impressing upon the minds of much of the white working class that, in particular, the cause of, for example, street crime is by black and mixed parentage people. This is why, despite having one of the largest mixed black/white populations in Europe, Britain does not socially recognise a ‘mixed’ racial group, and labels them as black.
Historian Edmund S Morgan explains that the racial theories ‘placed the white servants psychologically on a par with their master’89. It made the poor whites feel part of the dominant group, but without improving their economic position in relation to the ruling class. Not only was there the racist construction of a ‘black race’ – later buttressed by pseudo-scientific theories – but there was also the construction of a ‘white race’. This is an early example of racism as a tool of divide and rule90.
The Exploitation of Mixed Parentage People in the World
Britain is not the only country in which the mixed parentage group have been used to maintain social orders. This section will look at Brazil and Australia to show how mixed parentage children and people are viewed and used.
In Brazil, the mixed parentage group, (or mulatto population as they are known) are well defined and have a place in society which is utilised to split any black power movements and to provide darker skinned people the belief that hope lies in a marriage with someone lighter than you, producing a lighter child.
During the colonial period, the Portuguese immigrants in Brazil had a less arrogant attitude91 towards the first nationers92 and black people. Consequently, cohabitation between different cultures was quite common. By the 1580s, the Portuguese were importing more than 2000 African slaves a year to work the sugar plantations of North-Eastern Brazil. The slave trade in Brazil continued until 1850 by which time around 3.65 million were traded in total, mostly from Senegal, Angola, Congo, Benin and the Mina coast. Consequently, Brazil today has the largest population of African descent of any country outside of Africa itself93. In the hierarchical structure, black people were wedged at the bottom. The Brazilian economy created space for the ‘mixed bloods’ to rise socially (to a limited degree) in the 1800s, but only in the Army.94
Today, the Brazilian ruling class is keen to deny the existence of a large black population. And this is the case particularly with the mixed parentage group which is given a separate identity from Black people. In Brazilian society, white and lighter skinned people are far more economically better off than darker skinned and black people. Being ‘Black’ has meant punishment, economic deprivation, poverty, and socio-political alienation95. Black people are seldom on television, own few businesses, are sparsely represented in politics or the media, live in the poorest areas and are regularly at the receiving end of police brutality. Hence, the threat of a black movement to redress this balance is a possibility.
In order to quash this, the Brazilian ruling class has been keen to remind people of their immense history of racial inter-mixing. Mixed parentage people have been, and are continually told, that they are not black, and do not have the same status as black people. This unfortunately is a misconception, but nevertheless, is one that is warmly welcomed by the mixed community.
The reality is that mixed parentage people in society have an equally miserable existence in Brazil as ‘black’ people. Mixed parentage people in Brazil receive on average only 4 years of education, the same as black people, whilst white people have an average of 6.6 years of education96. In 1991, Afro/mixed-Brazilians were 44 percent of the population, yet positions of the authority were dominated (with rare exceptions) by whites – Congress, the Foreign Office, church hierarchy, military and police officials, and the prestigious professions such as law, and medicine97. Of the thousands of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Sao Paulo, (Brazil’s most distinguished), for example, only a dozen were black or mixed, in a state where 20% of the population is black and mixed98.
In a study done in 1976 by the Census Bureau about race relations in Brazil (the first of its kind) the results revealed a clear pattern of discrimination against all persons of ‘colour’, both black and mixed99. The census data showed that mixed parentage people did only marginally better than blacks (and much worse than whites) in employment, education, and income. In Sao Paulo in 1980, for example, monthly earnings of white workers were 2.3 times those of black and mixed parentage people100.
Nonetheless, the illusion that they are different has meant that mixed parentage people are reluctant associate politically with black people in Brazilian society because it may ‘rock the boat’, and because they feel that climbing the social ladder depends on them proving to the rest of society (namely the white ruling classes) that they are not black people, meaning that they can be trusted with important positions in society. As a result, this disarms the black movement because few people are proud of being black. Many black people in Brazil try extremely hard to prove how light they are to such an extent that there are 128 different racial categories in Brazil starting at pure white, and ending at pure black. Names like ‘coffee skinned’ and ‘mahogany’ have entered into the language as desperate attempts to define themselves as anything other than black. Statistics show that Brazil has only a black population of 14.6, which to any British person would seem strange being that there are far more dark skinned people than the figures suggest.
This has racial manoeuvring has led to one thing, the maintenance of white people in power, and left the ruling classes unchallenged. Even in a so-called liberal democracy such as Brazil’s, the last twenty years has become a consensually economically imbalanced society through the vital role that the mixed parentage group plays in society.
In Australia, the mixed parentage group has been used has changed over time. Originally they were used to ‘breed out’ the Aborigines through the policy of ‘assimilation’, and today they are used to deny Aborigines land rights.
The Aborigines came to Australia between 40,000 and 80,000 years ago101. When the Europeans came in 1788, there were around 750,000 Aborigines102. The history of white contact with Aboriginals has been one of European invasion, genocide, theft of land, rape, torture, removal of children from parents, destruction of livelihood and severe impact on culture, law, religion, society and government. All the full Tasmanian Aborigines were killed by the British or died from disease by 1876103.
For the colonial bureaucrats and farmer settlers, the Aborigines and their communal lifestyle constituted an obstruction to potential profits from the export of wool and wheat and had to be removed from all areas which could produce these commodities. The Aborigines were either duped into signing away traditional hunting areas or physically driven from land they had occupied for thousands of years. Those who resisted were hunted and killed like wild animals. Aboriginal women were raped, waterholes and food poisoned and tribal elders exiled, jailed or murdered by the new state power104. Few records were ever kept of the number of Aborigines killed by police, vigilante grouping and settlers during this period but after 120 years of British settlement the native population was reduced from an estimated 750,000 in the late 1700s to 31,000 by the 1900s105. The rest were rounded up and sent to reserves to provide cheap labour pools for the Europeans.
At the beginning of the 1900s, a noticeable number of mixed parentage children were being born in reserves, either the result of rape or mutual consent. Hence, the Australian government introduced the policy of ‘assimilation’. According to official guidelines, full-blooded Aborigines were to be confined to the poverty stricken settlement and left to gradually die out, while children of mixed parentage, labelled as ‘half-castes’ by the government, were taken from their ‘full-blooded’ parents106.
The reason for this was two-fold:
Firstly, the policy of ‘assimilation’ was based on a philosophy of making society and different cultural groups the ‘same’ as the dominant group. In this case, it was Anglo-Saxon heritage. According to Western Australia’s Chief Protector of Aborigines, A.O Neville, the policy was aimed at, “merg [ing] them into our white community and eventually to forget that there were any Aborigines in Australia” 107.
“Are we going to have a population of 1,000,000 blacks in the Commonwealth, or are we going to merge them into our white community and eventually forget that there were any Aborigines in Australia”108.
Secondly, ‘assimilation’ attempted to separate the ‘savage from the ‘half-savage’, who could be saved. “I consider it a great scandal to allow any of these half-caste girls to remain with the natives”, said Fitzroy, Chief Protector of Charles Gale in 1908109. “All Aboriginal women are prostitutes at heart, and all Aborigines are dirty, filthy and immoral”, said James Isdell, the former pastoralist and parliamentarian, who was appointed travelling protector for the north in 1907110. Hence, mixed parentage children were told that they were smarter than full-blood Aboriginal children111. The assimilation project ended in 1976.
Today, the Australian ruling class have a different definition for the mixed parentage Aborigines, to suite their politically and socially needs. With the calls for Aborigines to have some of their land back, in order to reject the wave of Aboriginal land claims, the Australian government has taken great pains to prove that there are very few ‘full-blooded’ Aborigines left. As adirect result of the ‘assimilation’ policy many ‘darker Australians’ are now defined as half-caste, quarter-caste, and quadroon etc., and thus are not eligible for Aboriginal land that has now been sectioned for them. Politicians such as Prime Minister Howard and Ron Brunton have made their careers by breaking down the levels of ‘mixedness’ in Aborigines, and consequently arguing that they have no rights to the land, keeping it for the ruling class.
Conversely, on a social level, mixed parentage people are given the status as their ‘full-blood’ Aboriginal relatives. Today, the Aboriginal and mixed parentage community together faces chronic alcoholism, petrol sniffing, heroin addiction, domestic violence, unemployment, and appalling health and education standards since the dispossession of their lands.
Within the mixed parentage and Aboriginal community, Rheumatic fever is the highest ever reported in the world. Diabetes affects up to a quarter of the mixed and Aboriginal population. 90% of overcrowded households in Australia are mixed or Aboriginal112. Two in 50 mixed/Aborigines will commit suicide113. The life expectancy of mixed/Aborigines is 25 years shorter than whites. The death rate of mixed/Aboriginal women is six times that of white women114 and the imprisonment rate of mixed/Aborigines and incidence of their deaths in custody is the highest in the world. Hence, the Australian ruling class used the mixed parentage population to secure land, and to maintain a social order.
The examples of Brazil and Australia show that the mixed parentage group has been used, played, duped and manipulated to achieve greater economic dominance from the ruling classes over the lower classes. Hence, the social construction of the mixed parentage identity has been internationally used, proving that it is not a singular phenomenon, neither is it merely a theory. It is a reality that British mixed parentage children face their whole lives.
Since European Scientists’ conclusion was that white was pure, to follow this argument through, they had to develop the ‘one drop rule’: the notion that mixed parentage people were black. Since the ‘one drop rule’ has become embedded into British psyche, it is easier for the ruling classes to identify mixed parentage people as black, which keeps the racial categorisation in place, securing the place of the ruling classes.
I am black because the state needs me to be.
Whilst the new 2001 census for the first time had a ‘mixed’ section, this is a superficial recognition of a mixed parentage racial group in Britain. With the television executives producing programmes featuring mixed parentage people as black, with the Home Office compiling figures of black crime that include mixed parentage people, and with people on a micro level still unable to get the ‘one drop theory’ out of their psyche, there will not be an individual identity for mixed parentage children in society.
This need to realign mixed parentage identity is to prevent people in British society from erasing the ‘they’, and translating it into a ‘we’. Blaming another race for one’s own socio-economic misgivings is an easy and altogether practical way to deflect the blame from the ruling classes.
The ‘War on Terrorism’ and ‘Operation Trident’ are all examples of devices used by the ruling class to divert us from demanding social justice in our communities. By selling us the idea that we, as British citizens are under threat from Muslim terrorists, illegal Eastern European immigrants and marauding black youths on our city streets, we will be told that our Government and the ruling class’s priority is to protect us from these threats. With this, our demands for social justice diminish while we are asked to back ‘our government’ in its crusade to save us from the latest enemy.
Mixed relationships and mixed children problematise the racial categories and hence their divide and rule strategy. Since Britain already has its black-white conflict in place, along with the ‘one drop rule’ still alive, the ruling classes have fitted mixed parentage people neatly in the ‘black’ category. This is then largely (but not exclusively) accepted by the black community, who are able to relate to mixed parentage people though the fact that they are treated as the same by society.
Not only are the British ruling class able to manoeuvre the mixed parentage population, the Australian and Brazilian ruling class are examples of countries who have purposely constructed the mixed parentage group to serve its own purposes.
Sadly, the effect of this imposed identity on British mixed parentage children has been their social underdevelopment.
Since the rise of the eugenics movement in the early 20th century, many people have believed that mixed parentage children were actually worse off than black people115. This has resulted in a large number of mixed parentage children being placed into care for successive generations. For example, around 65% of the estimated 2,000 mixed parentage children from black US GIs and British women during WWII were placed into care, largely because of public stigma that was attached to having a ‘brown’ child.116. Today, 21% of mixed parentage kids are in care in Birmingham, compared with 7% of the population117. Nationally, 7.5% of children in care are mixed parentage, seven times the proportion in the population as a whole118.
A study done by the Sheffield Multiple Heritage Service found that mixed parentage pupils had a generally poor educational performance, and that their attainment actually fell in Key Stages 1 and 2 across the city in 2000/2001119. In Britain today, mixed parentage children face exclusion rates equal to that of black pupils. More than a quarter of mixed race people aged between 16-24 have no qualifications, compared with one in eight white British people of the same age120.
In 2002/2003, people from a mixed parentage background were more likely than those from other ethnic groups to be victim of crime in England and Wales121. 46% of all mixed adults had been victims of crime in 2001122, and mixed parentage people are over represented in the Criminal Justice System, as they are in the number of ‘Looked After Children’.
British society’s opinions of the identity of mixed parentage children are largely responsible for this. Teachers wrongly stereotyping pupils and assuming that they will be from fragmented families has been partly responsible for the underachievement by mixed parentage children in schools. As Anushka Asthana argues in a study she completed in a school, “the children themselves had no problem with their identity – they had a strong sense of it from home. It was teachers and others who assumed they must have an identity crisis, or must be from single-parent families.”123. As a consequence of the way mixed parentage people are pulled and pushed to fit the needs of the state, their failure in the social system is unsurprising.
The key is for mixed parentage children to define themselves. For too long mixed parentage children have been trying to be accepted into either the black category, or the white category, begging for recognition.
Since black and white people are allowed to define themselves, regardless of their past, mixed parentage children must be taught to understand that they also have that right.
If I told a woman who called herself Ugandan that she was not Ugandan, but that she should identify herself by her tribe, or told her that she should be Africa first, and Ugandan second, or told her that she had a colonial mid-set because Uganda was a European creation, and that she was actually black – she would probably ask herself, “why is this person telling me who I am when it is I who have lived my life. I know what I am, and I will therefore label myself as I want?” Equally, mixed parentage people should never allow anyone else to do the same. Simply because there is no mixed parentage group in society that is socially recognised, it means that they are forever ‘trying’ to fit into that impossible, unfeasible, implausible, ridiculous alcove, where they are not white, but are not actually fully black.
My advice to youth workers, teachers and the people that interact with mixed parentage children is, it is important to stress the fact that they define themselves, no-one else, not parents, friends or anyone else.
I therefore subscribe to Jonathan Furners, “Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People”
I have the right…
not to justify my existence in this world
not to keep the races separate within me
not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical ambiguity not to justify my cultural legitimacy
to identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify me to identify myself differently from my brothers and sisters
to identify myself differently in different situations
to create a vocabulary to communicate about being mixed parentage to change my identity over my lifetime – and more than once to have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people and…to freely choose whom I befriend and love124
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The Labour Market Under New Labour
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
Howard University Press 1972
The Multiracial Experience
Sage Publications 1996
Parker, David & Song, Miri
Rethinking Mixed Race
Pluto Press 2001
Time Out Carnival 2002 Guide
3,000 school aged children of mixed heritage in Sheffield
Sheffield Multiple Heritage Service
Simons, Jack & Simons, Ray
Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950
International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa 1983
Skidmore, Thomas E
Brazil: Five Centuries of Change
Oxford University Press 1999
Black People in Britain: 1555-1833
Oxford University Press 1977
Smith, Denis Mack
Alfred A Knopf 1982
Kinship and Class in the West Indies
University Press Cambridge 1988
Spickard, Paul R
The Illogic of American Racial Categories
Rewriting history over the death of a people
www.eniar.org 26 Dec 2002
The Moving Frontier
A H and A W Reed Pty. Ltd 1977
British Empire is nothing to be proud of
Essays on African History: From the Slave Trade to Neo-colonialism Africa World Press 1988
Suter, Keith & Stearman, Kaye
Minority Rights Group 1994
The Australians: In Search of An Identity
The Transworld Publishers 1987
A History of South Africa
Yale University Press 1995
Tizzard, Barbara and Phoenix, Ann
Black, White or Mixed Race
Wall, Deborah Ruiz
Justice Sough From the Lines of a Song
Class, Status, and Party
Oxford University Press 1946
Culture, Race and Identity: Australian Aboriginal Writing
Cardiff University 1990
Capitalism and Slavery
Andre Deutsch 1989
The Fabrication of Aboriginal History
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Penguin Books 1965
Aboriginal History and Culture
April 16th 2001
Australian Aboriginal History
Ethnicity and Identity: Victims of Crime
National Statistics Online
Global Snapshots: Brazil – a rich country full of poor people www.studentbmj.com
Merseyside Maritime Museum
National Statistics Online
Ethnicity and Identity
Victims of Crime
White, mixed-race and Caribbean youngsters ‘most likely to face problems after leaving care’. www.jrf.org.uk
‘Race Riot’ Reports divert the Issue – Capitalism Breeds Racism www.lalkar.org
Sheffield Hallam Working Papers: Racial Disciplines
The Story of African Slaves
BBC World Service
They’ve got the look
Untold: Black History Season
World Socialist Web Site
Rabbit Proof Fence translated into French
Dir. Spike Lee
Rabbit Proof Fence
Dir. Phillip Noyce
Secret and Lies
Dir. Mike Leigh
Twentieth Century Fox 1996
A brief list of different names given to people who have one black and one white parent
Café Au Lait
Cookies and Cream
Some Famous Mixed Parentage People
Adam Clayton Powell Jnr. (NAACP Black Activist during the 1950s and 1960s) Alessandro de Medici (16th Century Italian Head of State)
Alexandre Dumas (Author of ‘The Three Musketeers’, ‘The Count of Montecristo’, and ‘The Man with the Iron Mask’) Alicia (RnB Singer from Mis-teeq)
Alicia Keys (RnB Singer)
Allen and Albert Hughes (Film Directors of Films such as ‘Menace II Society and ‘Dead Presidents’) Amerie (RnB Singer)
Amil (RnB Singer with Roc-A-Fella Records)
Andre Petion (Haitian President for Life in 1807)
Arthur Wharton (Britain’s first professional non-white footballer) Ashley Cole (Arsenal and England Footballer)
Bizzie Bone (Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony Rapper)
Blu Cantrell (RnB Singer)
Booker T Washington (Black Activist)
Bob Marley (Reggae Singer)
Catherine Zeta Jones (Film Actress)
Cathy Freeman (400m Athletics Runner)
Charli Baltimore (Rapper and Former B.I.G partner)
Christina Milian (RnB Singer)
Chilli (RnB Singer from T.L.C)
Christopher Reid (‘Kid’ from ‘Kid N Play’ and Star of House Party Films) Clinton Morrison (Irish International Footballer)
Craig David (RnB Singer)
Daley Thompson (Double Olympic Decathlon Winner)
David James (England International Goalkeeper)
Dina Carroll (Pop Singer)
Eagle-Eye Cherry (Pop Singer)
Elinor Tatum (First Female Editor Chief of Amsterdam News)
Faith Evans (RnB Singer with ‘Bad Boy’s Records and Wife of Late Rapper Notorious B.I.G) Frederick Douglass (Black Activist during the American Civil War) Halle Berry (Actress and Oscar Winner)
Hans Massaquoi (Editor of Chicago based ‘Ebony’ Magazine) Henrik Larssen (Swedish, Barcelona and Former Celtic Footballer) Jamie Baulch (400m Athletics Runner)
Jason Robinson (England Rugby Captain and 2003 World Cup Winner) Jeremy Guscott (Former England Rugby International and 1991 World Cup Finalist) John Carew (Norwegian International Footballer)
John Salako (Former Crystal Palace Footballer and TV Pundit) Goldie (Jungle and Drum and Bass Producer)
Keith Curle (Former Wimbledon Footballer)
Kelis (RnB Singer and Wife of Rapper ‘Nas’)
Kelly Holmes (Current 800m and 1500m Olympic Champion)
Kieron Dier (Newcastle Footballer)
Lenny Kravitz (Pop Singer)
Lisa Bonet (Daughter of Bill Cosby in Cosby Show and Former Wife of Eric Benet) Lou Bega (Pop Singer Famous for the Hit ‘A Little Bit of Mambo) Malcolm X (Black Activist during the 1950s and 1960s)
Mariah Carey (RnB Singer)
Mario Van Peebles (Actor in Films such as ‘Ali’ and ‘New Jack City’, Director of Films such as ‘Panther’) Martin Dahlin (Swedish International Footballer)
Mary Seacole (Nurse during the Crimean War and best selling Author) Melanie B (Pop Singer with the Spice Girls)
Ms Dynamite (RnB Singer)
Mya (RnB Singer)
Neneh Cherry (Pop Singer)
Oona King (Former Labour MP)
Paul Boateng (Labour Cabinet Member)
Paul Elliot (Former Chelsea Footballer and TV Pundit)
Paul McGrath (Former Irish International Footballer and Former PFA player of the year) Phillipa Duke Schuyler (Pianist and Composer)
Queen Charlotte (Wife of King George III 1738-1820)
Rae Dawn Chong (Film Actress who starred in ‘Commando’)
Ralph Ellison (Author of Invisible Man)
Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd Footballer)
Roland Gift (Lead Singer from the ‘Fine Young Cannibals’) Rosario Dawson (Film Actress who starred in ‘Sin City’)
Ruud Gullit (Former Dutch International Footballer and 1988 European Championships winner) Ryan Giggs (Man Utd Footballer)
Sade (Soul Singer)
Sally Hemings (Mistress of American President, Thomas Jefferson) Samantha Mumba (Pop Singer)
Sean Paul (Dancehall Singer)
Shirley Bassey (Pop Singer featuring on many James Bond soundtracks) Shola Ama (RnB Singer)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Composer and Conductor)
Slash (Guitarist from Guns N Roses)
Stacey Dash (Actress in Films such as ‘Clueless’)
Tatyana Ali (‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ Actress and RnB Singer) Thandie Newton (Actress)
The Rock (Film Star and WWF Wrestler)
Tiger Woods (World Number 1 Golfer)
Tom Morello (Band Member of ‘Rage Against The Machines’) Traci Bingham (Actress and Baywatch Crew member)
Vin Diesel (Actor)
WEB DuBois (Black Activist who formed the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People or NAACP) Zadie Smith (Author of ‘Brick Lane’ and ‘White Teeth’)