Jon Michael Spencer, The New Colored People

I picked up this book knowing I would be challenged. The title itself presents a category I find troubling, considering the historical context of the word “colored.” The book is broken into four main chapters: “The Rainbow People of God,” “The Blessings of the One-Drop Rule”, “The Curses of the Amorphous Middle Status,” and “Thou Shalt Not Racially Classify.”  In the beginning chapters, Spencer does exactly what I expected – he claims awareness of the opinions of multiracial people, but presents his strong views against a “multiracial movement,” using his observations as a professor in South Africa as the foundation for his analysis. It is important to note that this book was written in 1997, as the debate about creating a multiracial category on the Census gained momentum. What we now know, of course, is that instead of an exculsive multiracial category, people are allowed to check more than one racial classification. This outcome is the one most favorable to Spencer in his closing statement. I disagreed with a lot of what his he to say leading up to the ‘check more than one box’ idea; which is a solution that is beneficial (and considered a victory among multiracial people) so far. However, he does bring up points that are important to critically analyze in order to have an educated opinion on the issue. I have put in bold the statements I find most beneficial to further examine.

  • “In addition to the discrimination that mixed race blacks suffer from the internalized racism common to all people of color, mixed race people have suffered from a history of discrimination resulting from the deeply rooted fear of miscegenation in American society” (37).
  • “Despite the fact that black children are sometimes cruel to mixed race black children and the black community is sometime tentative about mixed race adults, there is a measure of acceptance in the black community that is rarely matched by whites” (55).
  • “…it makes sense that the one-drop rule would be viewed…as a necessity. It makes sense not simply for the sake of mixed race blacks having a ‘steady home’ but for the sake of the black community being able to maintain a healthy cohesiveness” (57).
  • But if we believe that mixed race people represent the need for a new social consciousness that would permit greater fluidity in people’s racial identities and therefore more racial tolerance…then what alternatives are there for mixed race people in terms of their racial identification?” (142).
  • The problem is that mixed race people do not feel like full American citizens because of the discrimination they have historically faced as a result of the persistent old fashioned ideas about miscegnation. Perhaps this is why [they] are pushing for a multiracial identity rather than for the right to call themselves American” (143).
  • “For the multiracial ideal to work…it must be open to all mixed people – anyone at all who owns up to being racially mixed. It is only with the broadest definition of multiracial that the multiracialists could possibly meet their own ideal of everyone recognizing their multiraciality, their human oneness” (156).

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