Creating Multiracial Identities in the Work of Rebecca Walker and Kip Fulbeck: A Collective Critique of American Liberal Multiculturalism
Full Citation: Creating Multiracial Identities in the Work of Rebecca Walker and Kip Fulbeck: A Collective Critique of American Liberal Multiculturalism
MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 2013; doi: 10.1093/melus/mlt053
Gino Michael Pellegrini
Americans of multiracial descent recently have become noticeable, respectable, marketable, and, in the case of Barack Obama, presidential. In the last two decades, a growing body of creative and critical work about multiracial lives and issues has materialized.1 This social and historical development has become an ideological battleground for advocates, politicians, scholars, journalists, and marketers who have appropriated and interpreted its products and personalities in relation to their own beliefs, objectives, and commitments. According to many popular and political accounts, the growing number of interracial marriages and self-identified multiracials indicates that American society quickly is becoming post-racial. Scholars of this development, however, have been mostly skeptical of accounts that claim or assume that race-mixing leads to post-racial societies. Among scholars, there is ongoing debate over the precise impact that the emergent self-identified multiracial population is having on race, racial hierarchy, and white supremacy. Many scholars agree with G. Reginald Daniel, who claims that self-identified multiracials challenge race and racial hierarchy. However, Rainier Spencer and others argue the opposite: self-identified multiracials maintain racial hierarchy and reproduce race insofar as they rely on established racial categories to articulate their experiences and identities. Hence, this debate is at an impasse.2
One way to negotiate this impasse is to shift the focus of the debate from the impact that self-identified multiracials have had on race and racial hierarchy to the conditions that have made mixed-race individuals possible in ethno-racial combinations besides black and white. Of course, scholars who analyze this development through a black/white framework will likely object to this move on the grounds that all other ethno-racial categories must fall between black and white in the racial hierarchy, thus orienting multiracial identities, old and new, toward whiteness and away from blackness. Their objection, however, presumes stable racial categories, groups, and ways of belonging; scholars thus conclude that self-identified multiracials are confused, contradictory, naïve, or duplicitous and selfish in their pursuit of white privilege. This dismissal of multiracials fails to explain fairly and adequately the ongoing collectivization of multiracials of various mixes and backgrounds.3 As Kimberly McClain DaCosta suggests, “[S]ome multiracials are indeed inventing a collective vision of themselves,” and “rather than chastise them for it, [her] goal [is] to understand both why and in what ways they are doing so” (152). I would add that we need to delve deeper than the 1967 US Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia and the Census 2000 debates to come to a more complete understanding of the specific historical and ideological conditions that have enabled individuals of diverse racial and ethnic mixtures, skin colors, genders, and sexualities to envision their multiracial experiences in similar ways…
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